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This Day in U.S. History: May 17


1673 – Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette begin exploring the Mississippi River.

1775 – American Revolutionary War: the Continental Congress bans trade with Quebec.

1792 – The New York Stock Exchange is formed under the Buttonwood Agreement.

1849 – A large fire nearly burns St. Louis, Missouri to the ground.

1939 – The Columbia Lions and the Princeton Tigers play in the United States' first televised sporting event, a collegiate baseball game in New York City.

1954 – The United States Supreme Court hands down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

1973 – Watergate scandal: Televised hearings begin in the United States Senate.

1974 – Police in Los Angeles raid the Symbionese Liberation Army's headquarters, killing six members, including Camilla Hall.

1983 – The U.S. Department of Energy declassifies documents showing world's largest mercury pollution event in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (ultimately found to be 4.2 million pounds), in response to the Appalachian Observer's Freedom of Information Act request.

1987 – An Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jet fires two missiles into the U.S. Navy warship USS Stark, killing 37 and injuring 21 of her crew.

1995 – Shawn Nelson steals a tank from a military installation and goes on a rampage in San Diego resulting in a 25-minute police chase. Nelson is killed by an officer after the tank got stuck on a concrete barrier and tried to break free.

2004 – The first legal same-sex marriages in the U.S. are performed in the state of Massachusetts.

2013 – Two Metro-North commuter trains collide near Bridgeport, Connecticut injuring at least 72 people.

2015 – At least nine people are killed and 18 injured, some by law enforcement and others in gunfire exchanges, in a shootout between rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas.


1818 – Ezra Otis Kendall, American professor, astronomer and mathematician (d. 1899)

1868 – Horace Elgin Dodge, American businessman, co-founded Dodge (d. 1920)

1903 – Cool Papa Bell, American baseball player and manager (d. 1991)

1911 – Maureen O'Sullivan, Irish-American actress and singer (d. 1998)

1912 – Archibald Cox, American lawyer and politician, 31st United States Solicitor General (d. 2004)

1956 – Sugar Ray Leonard, American boxer and actor

1956 – Bob Saget, American comedian, actor, and television host

1962 – Craig Ferguson, Scottish-American comedian, actor, and talk show host


1829 – John Jay, American politician and diplomat, 1st Chief Justice of the United States (b. 1745)

1875 – John C. Breckinridge, American lawyer and politician, 14th Vice President of the United States, Confederate States general (b. 1821)

1879 – Asa Packer, American businessman, founded Lehigh University (b. 1805)

1886 – John Deere, American blacksmith and businessman, founded the Deere & Company (b. 1804)

1927 – Harold Geiger, American pilot and lieutenant (b. 1884)

1934 – Cass Gilbert, American architect (b. 1859)

1964 – Nandor Fodor, Hungarian-American psychologist and parapsychologist (b. 1895)

1974 – Ernest Nash, German-American photographer and scholar (b. 1898)

1977 – Charles E. Rosendahl, American admiral and pilot (b. 1892)

1992 – Lawrence Welk, American accordion player and bandleader (b. 1903)

2004 – Tony Randall, American actor, director, and producer (b. 1920)

2005 – Frank Gorshin, American actor and singer (b. 1934)

2010 – Walasse Ting, Chinese-American painter and poet (b. 1929)

2011 – Harmon Killebrew, American baseball player and sportscaster (b. 1936)

2012 – Donna Summer, American singer-songwriter and actress (b. 1948)