MPSHome Alumni Calendar Contact
This Day in U.S. History: April 20


1534 – Jacques Cartier begins his first voyage to what is today the east coast of Canada, the island of Newfoundland and Labrador.

1657 – Freedom of religion is granted to the Jews of New Amsterdam (later New York City).

1775 – American Revolutionary War: The Siege of Boston begins, following the battles at Lexington and Concord.

1789 – George Washington arrives at Grays Ferry, Philadelphia while en route to Manhattan for his inauguration

1836 – U.S. Congress passes an act creating the Wisconsin Territory.

1861 – American Civil War: Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army in order to command the forces of the state of Virginia.

1871 – The Civil Rights Act of 1871 becomes law.

1912 – Opening day for baseball's Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and Fenway Park in Boston.

1914 – Nineteen men, women, and children die in the Ludlow Massacre during a Colorado coal-miner's strike.

1916 – The Chicago Cubs play their first game at Weeghman Park (currently Wrigley Field), defeating the Cincinnati Reds 7–6 in 11 innings.

1918 – Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a. The Red Baron, shoots down his 79th and 80th victims, his final victories before his death the following day.

1926 – Western Electric and Warner Bros. announce Vitaphone, a process to add sound to film.

1939 – Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday is celebrated as a national holiday in Nazi Germany.

1939 – Billie Holiday records the first civil rights song "Strange Fruit".

1945 – World War II: US troops capture Leipzig, Germany, only to later cede the city to the Soviet Union.

1945 – World War II: Führerbunker: Adolf Hitler makes his last trip to the surface to award Iron Crosses to boy soldiers of the Hitler Youth.

1945 – Twenty Jewish children used in medical experiments at Neuengamme are killed in the basement of the Bullenhuser Damm school.

1946 – The League of Nations officially dissolves, giving most of its power to the United Nations.

1961 – Failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion of US-backed Cuban exiles against Cuba.

1972 – Apollo 16, commanded by John Young, lands on the moon.

1999 – Columbine High School massacre: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured 24 others before committing suicide at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado.

2007 – Johnson Space Center shooting: William Phillips with a handgun barricades himself in NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas before killing a male hostage and himself.

2008 – Danica Patrick wins the Indy Japan 300 becoming the first female driver in history to win an Indy car race.

2010 – The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven workers and beginning an oil spill that would last six months.

2011 – Sony takes the PlayStation Network offline in response to a data breach, marking the beginning of the 2011 PlayStation Network outage.


1850 – Daniel Chester French, American sculptor, designed the Lincoln statue (d. 1931)

1884 – Daniel Varoujan, Armenian poet and educator (d. 1915)

1889 – Adolf Hitler, Austrian-German soldier and politician, German Dictator  (d. 1945)

1908 – Lionel Hampton, American vibraphone player, pianist, bandleader, and actor (d. 2002)

1920 – John Paul Stevens, American lawyer and jurist, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

1923 – Mother Angelica, American nun and broadcaster, founded Eternal Word Television Network (d. 2016)

1923 – Tito Puente, American drummer and producer (d. 2000)

1937 – George Takei, American actor

1949 – Jessica Lange, American actress

1957 – Aviva Chomsky, American historian and author

1964 – Rosalynn Sumners, American figure skater


1769 – Chief Pontiac, American tribal leader (b. 1720)

1918 – Karl Ferdinand Braun, German-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1850)

1982 – Archibald MacLeish, American poet, playwright, and lawyer (b. 1892)