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This Day in History: August 17


1585 – A first group of colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh under the charge of Ralph Lane lands in the New World to create Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island, off the coast of present-day North Carolina.

1597 – Islands Voyage: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and Sir Walter Raleigh set sail on an expedition to the Azores.

1807 – Robert Fulton's North River Steamboat leaves New York, New York, for Albany, New York, on the Hudson River, inaugurating the first commercial steamboat service in the world.

1862 – American Indian Wars: The Dakota War of 1862 begins in Minnesota as Lakota warriors attack white settlements along the Minnesota River.

1862 – American Civil War: Major General J. E. B. Stuart is assigned command of all the cavalry of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

1863 – American Civil War: In Charleston, South Carolina, Union batteries and ships bombard Confederate-held Fort Sumter.

1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Gainesville: Confederate forces defeat Union troops near Gainesville, Florida.

1915 – Jewish American Leo Frank is lynched for the alleged murder of a 13-year-old girl in Marietta, Georgia, United States.

1915 – A Category 4 hurricane hits Galveston, Texas with winds at 135 miles per hour (217 km/h).

1942 – World War II: U.S. Marines raid the Japanese-held Pacific island of Makin (Butaritari).

1943 – World War II: The U.S. Eighth Air Force suffers the loss of 60 bombers on the Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission.

1943 – World War II: The U.S. Seventh Army under General George S. Patton arrives in Messina, Italy, followed several hours later by the British 8th Army under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, thus completing the Allied conquest of Sicily.

1943 – World War II: First Québec Conference of Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and William Lyon Mackenzie King begins.

1950 – Hill 303 massacre: American POWs are shot to death by the North Korean Army.

1953 – Addiction: First meeting of Narcotics Anonymous in Southern California.

1958 – Pioneer 0, America's first attempt at lunar orbit, is launched using the first Thor-Able rocket and fails. Notable as one of the first attempted launches beyond Earth orbit by any country.

1959 – Quake Lake is formed by the magnitude 7.5 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake near Hebgen Lake in Montana.

1959 – Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, the much acclaimed and highly influential best selling jazz recording of all time, is released.

1969 – Category 5 Hurricane Camille hits the U.S. Gulf Coast, killing 256 and causing $1.42 billion in damage.

1978 – Double Eagle II becomes first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean when it lands in Miserey, France near Paris, 137 hours after leaving Presque Isle, Maine.

1988 – President of Pakistan Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphel are killed in a plane crash.

1998 – Lewinsky scandal: US President Bill Clinton admits in taped testimony that he had an "improper physical relationship" with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. On the same day he admits before the nation that he "misled people" about the relationship.

2008 – American swimmer Michael Phelps becomes the first person to win eight gold medals in one Olympic Games.


1786 – Davy Crockett, American soldier and politician (d. 1836)

1893 – Mae West, American actress, singer, and screenwriter (d. 1980)

1913 – Mark Felt, American lawyer and agent, 2nd Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (d. 2008)

1914 – Bill Downs, American journalist (d. 1978)

1914 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., American lawyer and politician (d. 1988)

1943 – Robert De Niro, American actor, director, and producer

1944 – Larry Ellison, American businessman, co-founded the Oracle Corporation

1945 – Rachel Pollack, American author, poet, and educator

1949 – Norm Coleman, American lawyer and politician, 52nd Mayor of St. Paul

1955 – Richard Hilton, American businessman

1957 – Laurence Overmire, American poet, author, and actor

1959 – David Koresh, American cult leader (d. 1993)

1959 – Eric Schlosser, American journalist and author

1960 – Sean Penn, American actor, director, and political activist

1969 – Donnie Wahlberg, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (New Kids on the Block)


1935 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman, American sociologist and author (b. 1860)

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

1979 – Vivian Vance, American actress and singer (b. 1909)

1983 – Ira Gershwin, American songwriter (b. 1896)

1988 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., American lawyer and politician (b. 1914)

1990 – Pearl Bailey, American actress and singer (b. 1918)

2012 – Victor Poor, American engineer, developed the Datapoint 2200 (b. 1933)

2013 – John Hollander, American poet and critic (b. 1929)

2014 – Joanie Spina, American magician, dancer, and choreographer (b. 1953)

2015 – Yvonne Craig, American actress and dancer (b. 1937)