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This Day in History: July 17


1771 – Bloody Falls massacre: Chipewyan chief Matonabbee, traveling as the guide to Samuel Hearne on his Arctic overland journey, massacres a group of unsuspecting Inuit.

1867 – Harvard School of Dental Medicine is established in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the first dental school in the U.S. that is affiliated with a university.

1902 – Willis Carrier creates the first air conditioner in Buffalo, New York.

1918 – The RMS Carpathia, the ship that rescued the 705 survivors from the RMS Titanic, is sunk off Ireland by the German SM U-55; five lives are lost.

1938 – Douglas Corrigan takes off from Brooklyn to fly the "wrong way" to Ireland and becomes known as "Wrong Way" Corrigan.

1944 – Port Chicago disaster: Near the San Francisco Bay, two ships laden with ammunition for the war explode in Port Chicago, California, killing 320.

1944 – World War II: Napalm incendiary bombs are dropped for the first time by American P-38 pilots on a fuel depot at Coutances, near Saint-Lô, France.

1945 – World War II: The main three leaders of the Allied nations, Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin, meet in the German city of Potsdam to decide the future of a defeated Germany.

1953 – The largest number of United States midshipman casualties in a single event results from an aircraft crash in Florida killing 44.

1955 – Disneyland is dedicated and opened by Walt Disney in Anaheim, California.

1962 – Nuclear weapons testing: The "Small Boy" test shot Little Feller I becomes the last atmospheric test detonation at the Nevada National Security Site.

1975 – Apollo–Soyuz Test Project: An American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft dock with each other in orbit marking the first such link-up between spacecraft from the two nations.

1979 – Nicaraguan dictator General Anastasio Somoza Debayle resigns and flees to Miami, Florida.

1981 – A structural failure leads to the collapse of a walkway at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City, Missouri killing 114 people and injuring more than 200.

1984 – The national drinking age in the United States was changed from 18 to 21.

1989 – First flight of the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.

1996 – TWA Flight 800: Off the coast of Long Island, New York, a Paris-bound TWA Boeing 747 explodes, killing all 230 on board.


1744 – Elbridge Gerry, American merchant and politician, 5th Vice President of the United States (d. 1814)

1763 – John Jacob Astor, German-American businessman and philanthropist (d. 1848)

1889 – Erle Stanley Gardner, American lawyer and author (d. 1970)

1899 – James Cagney, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 1986)

1912 – Art Linkletter, Canadian-American radio and television host (d. 2010)

1913 – Bertrand Goldberg, American architect, designed the Marina City Building (d. 1997)

1917 – Phyllis Diller, American actress, singer, dancer, and voice artist (d. 2012)

1920 – Gordon Gould, American physicist and academic, invented the laser (d. 2005)

1935 – Diahann Carroll, American actress and singer

1950 – Phoebe Snow, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (Sisters of Glory) (d. 2011)

1976 – Luke Bryan, American singer-songwriter and guitarist


1704 – Pierre-Charles Le Sueur, French-American fur trader and explorer (b. 1657)

1709 – Robert Bolling, English-American planter and merchant (b. 1646)

1881 – Jim Bridger, American scout and explorer (b. 1804)

1887 – Dorothea Dix, American nurse and activist (b. 1802)

1959 – Billie Holiday, American singer-songwriter and actress (b. 1915)

1961 – Ty Cobb, American baseball player and manager (b. 1886)

1967 – John Coltrane, American saxophonist and composer (b. 1926)

1974 – Dizzy Dean, American baseball player and sportscaster (b. 1910)

2006 – Mickey Spillane, American crime novelist (b. 1918)

2009 – Walter Cronkite, American journalist and actor (b. 1916)