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This Day in History: August 7

Events

1679 – The brigantine Le Griffon, commissioned by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, is towed to the south-eastern end of the Niagara River, to become the first ship to sail the upper Great Lakes of North America.

1782 – George Washington orders the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle. It is later renamed to the more poetic Purple Heart.

1789 – The United States Department of War is established.

1791 – American troops destroy the Miami town of Kenapacomaqua near the site of present-day Logansport, Indiana in the Northwest Indian War.

1794 – U.S. President George Washington invokes the Militia Acts of 1792 to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.

1909 – Alice Huyler Ramsey and three friends become the first women to complete a transcontinental auto trip, taking 59 days to travel from New York, New York to San Francisco, California.

1927 – The Peace Bridge opens between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.

1930 – The last confirmed lynching of blacks in the Northern United States occurs in Marion, Indiana. Two men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, are killed.

1938 – The Holocaust: The building of Mauthausen concentration camp begins.

1940 – World War II: Alsace-Lorraine is annexed by the Third Reich.

1942 – World War II: The Battle of Guadalcanal begins as the United States Marines initiate the first American offensive of the war with landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.

1944 – IBM dedicates the first program-controlled calculator, the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (known best as the Harvard Mark I).

1947 – Thor Heyerdahl's balsa wood raft the Kon-Tiki, smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands after a 101-day, 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi) journey across the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to prove that pre-historic peoples could have traveled from South America.

1959 – The Lincoln Memorial design on the U.S. penny goes into circulation. It replaces the "sheaves of wheat" design, and was minted until 2008.

1959 – Explorer program: Explorer 6 launches from the Atlantic Missile Range in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1962 – Canadian-born American pharmacologist Frances Oldham Kelsey awarded the U.S. President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service for her refusal to authorize thalidomide.

1964 – Vietnam War: The U.S. Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution giving U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson broad war powers to deal with North Vietnamese attacks on American forces.

1966 – Race riots occur in Lansing, Michigan.

1970 – California judge Harold Haley is taken hostage in his courtroom and killed during an effort to free George Jackson from police custody.

1974 – Philippe Petit performs a high wire act between the twin towers of the World Trade Center 1,368 feet (417 m) in the air.

1976 – Viking program: Viking 2 enters orbit around Mars.

1978 – U.S. President Jimmy Carter declares a federal emergency at Love Canal due to toxic waste that had been disposed of negligently.

1981 – The Washington Star ceases all operations after 128 years of publication.

1987 – Lynne Cox becomes first person to swim from the United States to the Soviet Union, crossing from Little Diomede Island in Alaska to Big Diomede in the Soviet Union

1989 – U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland (D-TX) and 15 others die in a plane crash in Ethiopia.

1998 – The United States embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya kill approximately 212 people.

Births

1890 – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, American author and activist (d. 1964)

1928 – Herb Reed, American singer (The Platters) (d. 2012)

1929 – Don Larsen, American baseball player

1931 – Charles E. Rice, American scholar and author (d. 2015)

1942 – Garrison Keillor, American author and radio host

1945 – Alan Page, American football player and jurist

1950 – Alan Keyes, American politician and diplomat, 16th Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs

1963 – Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, American son of John F. Kennedy (d. 1963)

Deaths

1957 – Oliver Hardy, American actor, singer, and director (b. 1892)

1958 – Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, American author and educator (b. 1892)

2004 – Red Adair, American firefighter (b. 1915)

2015 – Uggie, American acting dog (b. 2002)

2015 – Louise Suggs, American golfer, co-founded LPGA (b. 1923)