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This Day in U.S. History: May 10


1497 – Amerigo Vespucci allegedly leaves Cádiz for his first voyage to the New World.

1503 – Christopher Columbus visits the Cayman Islands and names them Las Tortugas after the numerous turtles there.

1773 – The Parliament of Great Britain passes the Tea Act, designed to save the British East India Company by granting it a monopoly on the North American tea trade.

1775 – American Revolutionary War: A small Colonial militia led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold captures Fort Ticonderoga.

1775 – American Revolutionary War: Representatives from the Thirteen Colonies begin the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

1801 – First Barbary War: The Barbary pirates of Tripoli declare war on the United States of America.

1837 – Panic of 1837: New York City banks fail, and unemployment reaches record levels.

1849 – Astor Place Riot: A riot breaks out at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan, New York City over a dispute between actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready, killing at least 25 and injuring over 120.

1864 – American Civil War: Colonel Emory Upton leads a 10-regiment "Attack-in-depth" assault against the Confederate works at The Battle of Spotsylvania, which, though ultimately unsuccessful, would provide the idea for the massive assault against the Bloody Angle on May 12. Upton is slightly wounded but is immediately promoted to brigadier general.

1865 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is captured by U. troops near Irwinville, Georgia

1865 – American Civil War: In Kentucky, Union soldiers ambush and mortally wound Confederate raider William Quantrill, who lingers until his death on June 6.

1869 – The First Transcontinental Railroad, linking the eastern and western United States, is completed at Promontory Summit, Utah with the golden spike.

1872 – Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman nominated for President of the United States.

1876 – The Centennial Exposition is opened in Philadelphia by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II.

1893 – The Supreme Court of the United States rules in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit, under the Tariff Act of 1883.

1908 – Mother's Day is observed for the first time in the United States, in Grafton, West Virginia.

1916 – Sailing in the lifeboat James Caird, Ernest Shackleton arrives at South Georgia after a journey of 800 nautical miles from Elephant Island.

1922 – The United States annexes the Kingman Reef.

1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed first Director of the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and remains so until his death in 1972.

1933 – Censorship: In Germany, the Nazis stage massive public book burnings.

1940 – World War II: Germany invades Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

1940 – World War II: Winston Churchill is appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.

1941 – World War II: Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland to try to negotiate a peace deal between the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany.

1946 – First successful launch of an American V-2 rocket at White Sands Proving Ground.

1954 – Bill Haley & His Comets release "Rock Around the Clock", the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the Billboard charts.

1960 – The nuclear submarine USS Triton completes Operation Sandblast, the first underwater circumnavigation of the earth.

1962 – Marvel Comics publishes the first issue of The Incredible Hulk.

1969 – Vietnam War: The Battle of Dong Ap Bia begins with an assault on Hill 937. It will ultimately become known as Hamburger Hill.

1970 – Bobby Orr scores "The Goal" to win the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, for the Boston Bruins' fourth NHL championship in their history.

1972 – First flight of the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (a.k.a. "Warthog").

2002 – FBI agent Robert Hanssen is sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for selling United States secrets to Russia for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.

2005 – A hand grenade thrown by Vladimir Arutyunian lands about 65 feet (20 meters) from U.S. President George W. Bush while he is giving a speech to a crowd in Tbilisi, Georgia, but it malfunctions and does not detonate.

2008 – An EF4 tornado strikes the Oklahoma–Kansas state line, killing 21 people and injuring over 100.

2013 – One World Trade Center becomes the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.


1838 – John Wilkes Booth, American actor, assassin of Abraham Lincoln (d. 1865)

1841 – James Gordon Bennett, Jr., American publisher and broadcaster, co-founded Commercial Cable Company (d. 1918)

1893 – Tonita Peña, San Ildefonso Pueblo (Native American) artist (d. 1949)

1898 – Ariel Durant, American historian and author (d. 1981)

1899 – Fred Astaire, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 1987)

1902 – David O. Selznick, American director and producer (d. 1965)

1908 – Carl Albert, American lawyer and politician, 54th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (d. 2000)

1909 – Maybelle Carter, American autoharp player (Carter Family and The Carter Sisters) (d. 1978)

1916 – Milton Babbitt, American composer and educator (d. 2011)

1918 – T. Berry Brazelton, American pediatrician and author

1922 – Nancy Walker, American actress, singer, and director (d. 1992)

1930 – George E. Smith, American physicist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate

1930 – Pat Summerall, American football player and sportscaster (d. 2013)

1944 – Jim Abrahams, American director, producer, and screenwriter

1947 – Caroline B. Cooney, American author

1948 – Meg Foster, American actress

1953 – Tito Santana, American wrestler and coach

1955 – Mark David Chapman, American murderer

1963 – Lisa Nowak, American commander and astronaut

1967 – Young MC, English-American rapper, producer, and actor

1995 – Missy Franklin, American swimmer

1996 – Tyus Jones, American basketball player


1692 – Sarah Osborne, Salem witch trials victim (b. 1643)

1717 – John Hathorne, American merchant and politician (b. 1641)

1818 – Paul Revere, American engraver and soldier (b. 1735)

1863 – Stonewall Jackson, American general (b. 1824)

1977 – Joan Crawford, American actress (year of birth disputed)

1989 – Woody Shaw, American trumpet player, composer, and bandleader (b. 1944)

1990 – Walker Percy, American author and academic (b. 1916)

1994 – John Wayne Gacy, American criminal (b. 1942)

1999 – Shel Silverstein, American poet, author, and illustrator (b. 1930)

2000 – Dick Sprang, American illustrator (b. 1915)

2012 – Carroll Shelby, American race car driver and designer (b. 1923)

2015 – Chris Burden, American sculptor, illustrator, and academic (b. 1946)