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This Day in History: February 18

Events

1791 – Congress passes a law admitting the state of Vermont to the Union, effective 4 March 1791, after that state had existed for 14 years as a de facto independent largely unrecognized state.

1861 – In Montgomery, Alabama, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America.

1865 – American Civil War: Union forces under Major General William T. Sherman set the South Carolina State House on fire during the burning of Columbia.

1885 – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is published in the United States.

1954 – The first Church of Scientology is established in Los Angeles.

1955 – Operation Teapot: Teapot test shot "Wasp" is successfully detonated at the Nevada Test Site with a yield of 1.2 kilotons. Wasp is the first of fourteen shots in the Teapot series.

1970 – The Chicago Seven are found not guilty of conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

1972 – The California Supreme Court in the case of People v. Anderson, (6 Cal.3d 628) invalidates the state's death penalty and commutes the sentences of all death row inmates to life imprisonment.

1977 – The Space Shuttle Enterprise test vehicle is carried on its maiden "flight" on top of a Boeing 747.

1978 – The first Ironman Triathlon competition takes place on the island of Oahu and is won by Gordon Haller.

2001 – FBI agent Robert Hanssen is arrested for spying for the Soviet Union. He is ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

2001 – Seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt dies in an accident during the Daytona 500.

Births

1848 – Louis Comfort Tiffany, American stained glass artist (d. 1933)

1862 – Charles M. Schwab, American businessman, co-founded Bethlehem Steel (d. 1939)

1892 – Wendell Willkie, American captain, lawyer, and politician (d. 1944)

1922 – Helen Gurley Brown, American journalist and author (d. 2012)

1926 – A. R. Ammons, American poet and academic (d. 2001)

1931 – Johnny Hart, American cartoonist, co-created The Wizard of Id (d. 2007)

1931 – Toni Morrison, American author, playwright, and academic, Nobel Prize laureate

1933 – Yoko Ono, Japanese-American singer-songwriter

1954 – Charlie Fowler, American mountaineer, author, and photographer (d. 2006)

1954 – John Travolta, American actor, singer, and producer

1957 – Vanna White, American model and game show host

1965 – Dr. Dre, American rapper, producer, and actor

Deaths

1836 – Cornplanter, American tribal chief (b. 1732)

1851 – Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, German mathematician and academic (b. 1804)

1873 – Vasil Levski, Bulgarian activist, founded the Internal Revolutionary Organization (b. 1837)

1893 – Serranus Clinton Hastings, American lawyer and politician, 1st Chief Justice of California (b. 1814)

1895 – Carl Abs, German wrestler (b. 1851)

1902 – Charles Lewis Tiffany, American businessman, founded Tiffany & Co. (b. 1812)

1906 – John Batterson Stetson, American businessman, founded the John B. Stetson Company (b. 1830)

1910 – Lucy Stanton, American activist (b. 1831)

1967 – J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and academic (b. 1904)

1981 – Jack Northrop, American engineer and businessman, founded the Northrop Corporation (b. 1895)

1998 – Harry Caray, American sportscaster (b. 1914)

2001 – Dale Earnhardt, American race car driver (b. 1951)

2014 – Maria Franziska von Trapp, Austrian-American singer (b. 1914)