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This Day in U.S. History: April 17

Events

1524 – Giovanni da Verrazzano reaches New York harbor.

1797 – Sir Ralph Abercromby attacks San Juan, Puerto Rico, in what would be one of the largest invasions of the Spanish territories in America.

1861 – The state of Virginia's secession convention votes to secede from the United States, becoming the 8th state to join the Confederate States of America.

1863 – American Civil War: Grierson's Raid begins – troops under Union Army Colonel Benjamin Grierson attack central Mississippi.

1864 – American Civil War: The Battle of Plymouth begins – Confederate forces attack Plymouth, North Carolina.

1897 – The Aurora, Texas, UFO incident

1905 – The Supreme Court of the United States decides Lochner v. New York, which holds that the "right to free contract" is implicit in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

1907 – The Ellis Island immigration center processes 11,747 people, more than on any other day.

1937 – Daffy Duck's first appearance, in Porky's Duck Hunt.

1961 – Bay of Pigs Invasion: A group of Cuban exiles financed and trained by the CIA lands at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro.

1964 – Ford Mustang is introduced to the North American market.

1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy.

1970 – Apollo program: The ill-fated Apollo 13 spacecraft returns to Earth safely.

2013 – An explosion at a fertilizer plant in the city of West, Texas, kills 15 people and injures 160 others.

2014 – NASA's Kepler confirms the discovery of the first Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of another star.

Births

1741 – Samuel Chase, American lawyer and jurist (d. 1811)

1820 – Alexander Cartwright, American firefighter, invented Baseball (d. 1892)

1837 – J. P. Morgan, American banker and financier, founded J.P. Morgan & Co. (d. 1913)

1897 – Thornton Wilder, American novelist and playwright (d. 1975)

1923 – Harry Reasoner, American soldier and journalist (d. 1991)

1934 – Don Kirshner, American songwriter and producer (d. 2011)

1935 – Bud Paxson, American broadcaster, founded Home Shopping Network and Pax TV (d. 2015)

Deaths

1680 – Kateri Tekakwitha, American saint (b. 1656)

1790 – Benjamin Franklin, American inventor, publisher, and politician (b. 1706)

1840 – Hannah Webster Foster, American journalist and author (b. 1758)

1882 – George Jennings, English engineer and plumber, invented the Flush toilet (b. 1810)

1990 – Ralph Abernathy, American minister and activist (b. 1936)

1998 – Linda McCartney, American singer, photographer, activist, and musician (Wings) (b. 1941)