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This Day in U.S. History: May 3


1802 – Washington, D.C. is incorporated as a city.

1855 – American adventurer William Walker departs from San Francisco with about 60 men to conquer Nicaragua.

1867 – The Hudson's Bay Company gives up all claims to Vancouver Island.

1877 – Labatt Park, the oldest continually operating baseball grounds in the world, has its first game.

1901 – The Great Fire of 1901 begins in Jacksonville, Florida.

1915 – The poem In Flanders Fields is written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.

1921 – West Virginia becomes the first state to legislate a broad sales tax, but does not implement it until a number of years later due to enforcement issues.

1937 – Gone with the Wind, a novel by Margaret Mitchell, wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

1942 – World War II: Japanese naval troops invade Tulagi Island in the Solomon Islands during the first part of Operation Mo that results in the Battle of the Coral Sea between Japanese forces and forces from the United States and Australia.

1948 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Shelley v. Kraemer that covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to blacks and other minorities are legally unenforceable.

1951 – The United States Senate Committee on Armed Services and United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations begin their closed door hearings into the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur by U.S. President Harry Truman.

1952 – Lieutenant Colonels Joseph O. Fletcher and William P. Benedict of the United States land a plane at the North Pole.

1952 – The Kentucky Derby is televised nationally for the first time, on the CBS network.

1957 – Walter O'Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, agrees to move the team from Brooklyn, to Los Angeles.

1960 – The Off-Broadway musical comedy The Fantastics opens in New York City's Greenwich Village, eventually becoming the longest-running musical of all time.

1963 – The police force in Birmingham, Alabama switches tactics and responds with violent force to stop the "Birmingham campaign" protesters. Images of the violent suppression are transmitted worldwide, bringing new-found attention to the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

1973 – The 108-story Sears Tower in Chicago is topped out at 1,451 feet as the world's tallest building.

1978 – The first unsolicited bulk commercial email (which would later become known as "spam") is sent by a Digital Equipment Corporation marketing representative to every ARPANET address on the west coast of the United States.

1987 – A crash by Bobby Allison at the Talladega Superspeedway, Alabama fencing at the start-finish line would lead NASCAR to develop the restrictor plate for the following season both at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega.

1999 – The southwestern portion of Oklahoma City is devastated by an F5 tornado, killing forty-five people, injuring 665, and causing $1 billion in damage. The tornado is one of 66 from the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak. This tornado also produces the highest wind speed ever recorded, measured at 301 +/- 20 mph (484 +/- 32 km/h).

2003 – New Hampshire's famous Old Man of the Mountain collapses.

2015 – Two gunmen launch an attempted attack on an anti-Islam event in Garland, Texas, which was held in response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting.


1849 – Jacob Riis, Danish-American journalist and photographer (d. 1914)

1903 – Bing Crosby, American singer and actor (d. 1977)

1906 – Mary Astor, American actress (d. 1987)

1912 – Virgil Fox, American organist and composer (d. 1980)

1912 – May Sarton, American poet, novelist and memoirist (d. 1995)

1919 – Pete Seeger, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and activist (The Weavers and Almanac Singers) (d. 2014)

1921 – Sugar Ray Robinson, American boxer (d. 1989)

1933 – James Brown, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor  (d. 2006)

1934 – Frankie Valli, American singer and actor (The Four Seasons and The Wonder Who?)

1935 – Ron Popeil, American businessman, founded the Ronco Company

1946 – Greg Gumbel, American sportscaster

1975 – Dulé Hill, American actor, dancer, and producer

1980 – Marcel Vigneron, American chef

1984 – Cheryl Burke, American dancer and model


1752 – Samuel Ogle, English-American captain and politician, 5th Governor of Restored Proprietary Government (b. 1692)

1779 – John Winthrop, American mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (b. 1714)

1989 – Christine Jorgensen, American trans woman (b. 1926)

2000 – John Joseph O'Connor, American cardinal (b. 1920)

2007 – Wally Schirra, American captain, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1923)

2011 – Jackie Cooper, American actor, television director, producer and executive (b. 1922)

2013 – David Morris Kern, American pharmacist, co-invented Orajel (b. 1909)

2014 – Gary Becker, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1930)

2014 – Jim Oberstar, American educator and politician (b. 1934)