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This Month, In History

October 1, 1908 – Henry Ford‘s Model T, a “universal car” designed for the masses, went on sale for the first time.

October 2, 1968 – California’s Redwood National Park was established. Redwoods are the tallest of all trees, growing up to 400 feet (120 meters) during a lifetime that can span 2,000 years.

October 3, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

October 4, 1965 – Pope Paul VI became the first Pope to visit the U.S. and the first to address the United Nations.

October 5, 1986 – Former U.S. Marine Eugene Hasenfus was captured by Nicaraguan Sandinistas after a plane carrying arms for the Nicaraguan rebels (Contras) was shot down over Nicaragua. This marked the beginning of the “Iran-Contra” controversy resulting in Congressional hearings and a major scandal for the Reagan White House after it was revealed that money from the sale of arms to Iran was used to fund covert operations in Nicaragua.

October 6, 1927 – The first “talkie” opened in New York. The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson was the first full-length feature film using spoken dialogue.

October 7, 1765 – The Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City with representatives from nine colonies meeting in protest to the British Stamp Act which imposed the first direct tax by the British Crown upon the American colonies.

October 8, 1871 – The Great Fire of Chicago erupted. According to legend, it started when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in her barn on DeKoven Street. Over 300 persons were killed and 90,000 were left homeless as the fire leveled 3.5 square miles, destroying 17,450 buildings. Financial losses totaled over $200 million.

October 9, 1940 – John Lennon (1940-1980) was born in Liverpool, England. He was a member of The Beatles, an influential rock group which captivated audiences first in England and Germany, and later in America and throughout the world. He was murdered in New York City on December 8, 1980.

October 10, 1973 – Spiro T. Agnew (1918-1996) resigned the office of Vice President of the United States amid charges of income tax evasion on illegal payments allegedly received while he was governor of Maryland and after he became Vice President. He was later given a $10,000 fine and sentenced to serve three years probation. He was succeeded as Vice President by Gerald R. Ford, who went on to become President after the resignation of Richard M. Nixon.

October 11, 1939 – Albert Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that his theories could lead to Nazi Germany’s development of an atomic bomb. Einstein suggested the U.S. develop its own bomb. This resulted in the top secret “Manhattan Project.”

October 12, 1492 – After a 33-day voyage, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the New World in the Bahamas. He named the first land sighted as El Salvador, claiming it in the name of the Spanish Crown. Columbus was seeking a western sea route from Europe to Asia and believed he had found an island of the Indies. He thus called the first island natives he met, ‘Indians.’

October 13, 1775 – The United States Navy was born after the Second Continental Congress authorized the acquisition of a fleet of ships.

October 14, 1912 – Former President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by a fanatic while campaigning in Milwaukee. Roosevelt was saved by his thick overcoat, a glasses case and a folded speech in his breast pocket, all of which slowed the bullet. Although wounded, he insisted on making the speech with the bullet lodged in his chest and did not go to the hospital until the meeting ended. Roosevelt, a rugged outdoorsman, fully recovered in two weeks.

October 15, 1991 – The U.S. Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote following several days of tumultuous hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning sexual harassment charges made by a former aide. Thomas became the second African American to sit on the Court, replacing retired Justice Thurgood Marshall, an African American.

October 16, 1916 – The first birth control clinic in America was opened in Brooklyn, New York, by Margaret Sanger, a nurse who worked among the poor on the Lower East Side of New York City.

October 17, 1777 – During the American Revolutionary War, British General John Burgoyne and his entire army of 5,700 men surrendered to American General Horatio Gates after the Battle of Saratoga, the first big American victory.

October 18, 1945 – The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial began with indictments against 24 former Nazi leaders including Hermann Göring and Albert Speer. The trial lasted 10 months, with delivery of the judgment completed on October 1, 1946. Twelve Nazis were sentenced to death by hanging, three to life imprisonment, four to lesser prison terms, and three were acquitted.

October 19, 1987 – “Black Monday” occurred on Wall Street as stocks plunged a record 508 points or 22.6 per cent, the largest one-day drop in stock market history.

October 20, 1968 – Jacqueline Kennedy married multi-millionaire Greek businessman Aristotle Onassis, ending nearly five years of widowhood following the assassination of her first husband, President John F. Kennedy.

October 21, 1879 – Thomas Edison successfully tested an electric incandescent lamp with a carbonized filament at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, keeping it lit for over 13 hours.

October 22, 1962 – President John F. Kennedy appeared on television to inform Americans of the existence of Russian missiles in Cuba. The President demanded their removal and announced a naval “quarantine” of Cuba. Six days later, the Russians announced they would remove the weapons. In return, the U.S. later removed missiles from Turkey.

October 23, 1990 – Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitaly Masol resigned after mass protests by students, becoming the first Soviet official of that rank to quit under public pressure.

October 24, 1931 – Chicago gangster “Scarface” Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in jail for Federal income tax evasion. In 1934, he was transferred to Alcatraz prison near San Francisco. He was paroled in 1939, suffering from syphilis. He retired to his mansion in Miami Beach where he died in 1947.

October 25, 1881 – Artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Malaga, Spain. He was an experimental painter and also became a fine sculptor, engraver and ceramist.

October 26, 1951 – Winston Churchill became Britain’s prime minister for a second time, following his Conservative Party’s narrow victory in general elections. In his first term from 1940-45 he had guided Britain through its struggle against Nazi Germany.

October 27, 1787 – The first of 85 Federalist Papers appeared in print in a New York City newspaper. The essays argued for the adoption of the new U.S. Constitution. They were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.

October 28, 1886 – The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. The statue was a gift from the people of France commemorating the French-American alliance during the American Revolutionary War. Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the entire structure stands 300 feet (92.9 meters) tall. The pedestal contains the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

October 29, 1929 – The stock market crashed as over 16 million shares were dumped amid tumbling prices. The Great Depression followed in America, lasting until the outbreak of World War II.

October 30, 1938 – The War of the Worlds radio broadcast panicked millions of Americans. Actor Orson Welles and the Mercury Players dramatized the story by H.G. Wells depicting a Martian invasion of New Jersey. Their script utilized simulated radio news bulletins which many listeners thought were real.

October 31, 1950 – Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game when he took the floor for the Washington Capitols in Rochester, New York.

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