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This Day in History: July 21


1861 – American Civil War: First Battle of Bull Run: At Manassas Junction, Virginia, the first major battle of the war begins and ends in a victory for the Confederate army.

1865 – In the market square of Springfield, Missouri, Wild Bill Hickok shoots and kills Davis Tutt in what is regarded as the first western showdown.

1873 – At Adair, Iowa, Jesse James and the James–Younger Gang pull off the first successful train robbery in the American Old West.

1877 – After rioting by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers and the deaths of nine rail workers at the hands of the Maryland militia, workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania stage a sympathy strike that is met with an assault by the state militia.

1907 – The passenger steamer SS Columbia collides with the steam schooner San Pedro off Shelter Cove, California, causing the Columbia to sink killing 88 people.

1918 – U-156 shells Nauset Beach, in Orleans, Massachusetts.

1919 – The dirigible Wingfoot Air Express crashes into the Illinois Trust and Savings Building in Chicago, killing 12 people.

1925 – Scopes Trial: In Dayton, Tennessee, high school biology teacher John T. Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution in class and fined $100.

1944 – World War II: Battle of Guam: American troops land on Guam starting the battle. It would end on August 10.

1944 – World War II: Claus von Stauffenberg and fellow conspirators are executed in Berlin, Germany, for the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

1949 – The United States Senate ratifies the North Atlantic Treaty.

1952 – The 7.3 Mw Kern County earthquake strikes Southern California with a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (Extreme), killing 12 and injuring hundreds.

1959 – NS Savannah, the first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship, is launched as a showcase for Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" initiative.

1959 – Elijah Jerry "Pumpsie" Green becomes the first African-American to play for the Boston Red Sox, the last team to integrate. He came in as a pinch runner for Vic Wertz and stayed in as shortstop in a 2–1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

1961 – Mercury program: Mercury-Redstone 4 Mission: Gus Grissom piloting Liberty Bell 7 becomes the second American to go into space (in a suborbital mission).

1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first humans to walk on the Moon (July 20 Eastern Time Zone).

2011 – NASA's Space Shuttle program ends with the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135.

2012 – Erden Eruç completes the first solo human-powered circumnavigation of the world.


1851 – Sam Bass, American criminal (d. 1878)

1899 – Ernest Hemingway, American novelist, short story writer, and journalist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1961)

1903 – Russell Lee, American photographer and journalist (d. 1986)

1924 – Don Knotts, American actor and screenwriter (d. 2006)

1944 – Paul Wellstone, American academic and politician (d. 2002)

1946 – Ken Starr, American lawyer and judge, 39th Solicitor General of the United States

1948 – Snooty, American manatee

1951 – Robin Williams, American actor, singer, and producer (d. 2014)

1968 – Brandi Chastain, American soccer player and sportscaster


1878 – Sam Bass, American criminal (b. 1851)

1967 – Basil Rathbone, South African-American actor and singer (b. 1892)

1982 – Dave Garroway, American journalist and actor (b. 1913)

1998 – Alan Shepard, American admiral, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1923)

1998 – Robert Young, American actor and singer (b. 1907)

2015 – E. L. Doctorow, American novelist, short story writer, and playwright (b. 1931)