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This Day in U.S. History: May 21


1758 – Ten-year-old Mary Campbell is abducted in Pennsylvania by Lenape during the French and Indian War. She is returned six and a half years later.

1856 – Lawrence, Kansas is captured and burned by pro-slavery forces.

1863 – American Civil War: The Union Army succeeds in closing off the last escape route from Port Hudson, Louisiana, in preparation for the coming siege.

1863 – Organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Battle Creek, Michigan.

1864 – American Civil War: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House ends.

1881 – The American Red Cross is established by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C.

1917 – The Great Atlanta fire of 1917 causes $5.5 million in damages, destroying some 300 acres including 2,000 homes, businesses and churches, displacing about 10,000 people but leading to only one fatality (due to heart attack).

1924 – University of Chicago students Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks in a "thrill killing".

1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world's first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

1932 – Bad weather forces Amelia Earhart to land in a pasture in Derry, Northern Ireland, and she thereby becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

1934 – Oskaloosa, Iowa, becomes the first municipality in the United States to fingerprint all of its citizens.

1946 – Physicist Louis Slotin is fatally irradiated in a criticality incident during an experiment with the demon core at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

1951 – The opening of the Ninth Street Show, otherwise known as the 9th Street Art Exhibition: A gathering of a number of notable artists, and the stepping-out of the post war New York avant-garde, collectively known as the New York School.

1961 – American civil rights movement: Alabama Governor John Malcolm Patterson declares martial law in an attempt to restore order after race riots break out.

1979 – White Night riots in San Francisco following the manslaughter conviction of Dan White for the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

1980 – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is released in theaters.

2005 – The tallest roller coaster in the world, Kingda Ka opens at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey.


1898 – Armand Hammer, American physician and businessman, founded Occidental Petroleum (d. 1990)

1904 – Fats Waller, American singer-songwriter and pianist (d. 1943)

1907 – John C. Allen, American roller coaster designer (d. 1979)

1916 – Harold Robbins, American author and screenwriter (d. 1997)

1917 – Raymond Burr, Canadian-American actor and director (d. 1993)

1951 – Al Franken, American actor, screenwriter, and politician

1952 – Mr. T, American actor and wrestler

1960 – Jeffrey Dahmer, American serial killer (d. 1994)

1960 – Kent Hrbek, American baseball player and sportscaster

1967 – Chris Benoit, Canadian professional wrestler (d. 2007)


1542 – Hernando de Soto, Spanish-American explorer (b. 1496)