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This Day in History: February 20


1685 – René-Robert Cavelier establishes Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay thus forming the basis for France's claim to Texas.

1792 – The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department, is signed by United States President George Washington.

1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Olustee: The largest battle fought in Florida during the war.

1872 – In New York City the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens.

1873 – The University of California opens its first medical school in San Francisco.

1901 – The legislature of Hawaii Territory convenes for the first time.

1931 – The Congress of the United States approves the construction of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.

1933 – The Congress of the United States proposes the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution that will end Prohibition in the United States.

1933 – Adolf Hitler secretly meets with German industrialists to arrange for financing of the Nazi Party's upcoming election campaign.

1942 – Lieutenant Edward O'Hare becomes America's first World War II flying ace.

1943 – American movie studio executives agree to allow the Office of War Information to censor movies.

1943 – The Saturday Evening Post publishes the first of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms in support of United States President Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union address theme of Four Freedoms.

1944 – World War II: The "Big Week" began with American bomber raids on German aircraft manufacturing centers.

1944 – World War II: The United States takes Eniwetok Island.

1952 – Emmett Ashford becomes the first African-American umpire in organized baseball by being authorized to be a substitute umpire in the Southwestern International League.

1956 – The United States Merchant Marine Academy becomes a permanent Service Academy.

1962 – Mercury program: While aboard Friendship 7, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes.

1965 – Ranger 8 crashes into the Moon after a successful mission of photographing possible landing sites for the Apollo program astronauts.

1971 – The United States Emergency Broadcast System is accidentally activated in an erroneous national alert.

1987 – Unabomber: In Salt Lake City, a bomb explodes in a computer store.

1998 – American figure skater Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest gold-medalist at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

2003 – During a Great White concert in West Warwick, Rhode Island, a pyrotechnics display sets the Station nightclub ablaze, killing 100 and injuring over 200 others.


1893 – Elizabeth Holloway Marston, American psychologist and author (d. 1993)

1899 – Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, American businessman and philanthropist (d. 1992)

1901 – Louis Kahn, American architect, designed the Salk Institute, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Bangladesh Parliament Building (d. 1974)

1902 – Ansel Adams, American photographer and environmentalist (d. 1984)

1924 – Gloria Vanderbilt, American actress and fashion designer

1934 – Bobby Unser, American race car driver

1937 – Roger Penske, American race car driver and businessman

1954 – Patty Hearst, American actress and author

1988 – Rihanna, Barbadian-American singer-songwriter and actress


1862 – William Wallace Lincoln, American son of Abraham Lincoln (b. 1850)

1893 – P. G. T. Beauregard, American general (b. 1818)

1895 – Frederick Douglass, American author and activist (b. 1818)

1900 – Washakie, American tribal leader (b. 1798)

1966 – Chester W. Nimitz, American admiral (b. 1885)

1972 – Walter Winchell, American journalist and actor (b. 1897)

1999 – Gene Siskel, American journalist and critic (b. 1946)

2003 – Orville Freeman, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 29th Governor of Minnesota (b. 1918)

2005 – Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist and author (b. 1937)

2006 – Curt Gowdy, American sportscaster (b. 1919)