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This Day in History: June 15


1502 – Christopher Columbus lands on the island of Martinique on his fourth voyage.

1648 – Margaret Jones is hanged in Boston for witchcraft in the first such execution for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1752 – Benjamin Franklin proves that lightning is electricity (traditional date, the exact date is unknown).

1775 – American Revolutionary War: George Washington is appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

1776 – Delaware Separation Day: Delaware votes to suspend government under the British Crown and separate officially from Pennsylvania.

1804 – New Hampshire approves the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratifying the document.

1836 – Arkansas is admitted as the 25th U.S. state.

1844 – Charles Goodyear receives a patent for vulcanization, a process to strengthen rubber.

1846 – The Oregon Treaty establishes the 49th parallel as the border between the United States and Canada, from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

1859 – Pig War: Ambiguity in the Oregon Treaty leads to the "Northwestern Boundary Dispute" between United States and British/Canadian settlers.

1864 – American Civil War: The Second Battle of Petersburg begins.

1864 – Arlington National Cemetery is established when 200 acres (0.81 km2) around Arlington Mansion (formerly owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee) are officially set aside as a military cemetery by U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

1867 – Atlantic Cable Quartz Lode gold mine located in Montana.

1877 – Henry Ossian Flipper becomes the first African American cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy.

1878 – Eadweard Muybridge takes a series of photographs to prove that all four feet of a horse leave the ground when it runs; the study becomes the basis of motion pictures.

1904 – A fire aboard the steamboat SS General Slocum in New York City's East River kills 1,000.

1916 – U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signs a bill incorporating the Boy Scouts of America, making them the only American youth organization with a federal charter.

1919 – John Alcock and Arthur Brown complete the first nonstop transatlantic flight when they reach Clifden, County Galway, Ireland.

1934 – The U.S. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is founded.

1970 – Charles Manson goes on trial for the Sharon Tate murders.

1978 – King Hussein of Jordan marries American Lisa Halaby, who takes the name Queen Noor.

1992 – The United States Supreme Court rules in United States v. Álvarez-Machaín that it is permissible for the United States to forcibly extradite suspects in foreign countries and bring them to the USA for trial, without approval from those other countries.

2012 – Nik Wallenda becomes the first person to successfully tightrope walk over Niagara Falls.


1767 – Rachel Jackson, American wife of Andrew Jackson (d. 1828)

1789 – Josiah Henson, American minister, author, and activist (d. 1883)

1908 – Sam Giancana, American mobster (d. 1975)

1914 – Hilda Terry, American cartoonist (d. 2006)

1916 – Herbert A. Simon, American political scientist and economist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2001)

1917 – John Fenn, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2010)

1937 – Waylon Jennings, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (The Highwaymen) (d. 2002)

1939 – Ward Connerly, American activist and businessman, founded the American Civil Rights Institute

1941 – Neal Adams, American illustrator

1941 – Harry Nilsson, American singer-songwriter (d. 1994)

1946 – John Horner, American paleontologist and academic

1947 – John Hoagland, American photographer and journalist (d. 1984)

1963 – Helen Hunt, American actress, director, and producer

1964 – Courteney Cox, American actress, director, and producer

1969 – Ice Cube, American rapper, producer, and actor (N.W.A)

1973 – Neil Patrick Harris, American actor and singer

1984 – Tim Lincecum, American baseball player

1995 – Tucker West, American luger


1849 – James K. Polk, American lawyer and politician, 11th President of the United States (b. 1795)

1971 – Wendell Meredith Stanley, American biochemist and virologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1904)

1984 – Meredith Willson, American playwright, composer, and conductor (b. 1902)

1991 – Happy Chandler, American businessman and politician, 49th Governor of Kentucky (b. 1898)

1993 – John Connally, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 61st United States Secretary of the Treasury (b. 1917)

1995 – John Vincent Atanasoff, American physicist and inventor, invented the Atanasoff–Berry computer (b. 1903)

1996 – Ella Fitzgerald, American singer and actress (b. 1917)

2007 – Sherri Martel, American wrestler and manager (b. 1958)

2013 – Kenneth G. Wilson, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1936)

2014 – Casey Kasem, American radio host, producer, and actor, co-created American Top 40 (b. 1932)