1636 - The city of Providence, Rhode Island - the jewel of Narragansett Bay - was founded by Roger Williams, a religious kook who was too religiously kooky even for the Massachusetts Bay Colony which had exiled him.
1712 - 11 slaves were executed in Manhattan for their alleged part in a slave revolt; there exists no credible evidence that any such uprising was in the offing, which didn't stop Bancroft Prize-winning historian Jill Lepore from crafting an exquisite work entitled New York Burning from the story, although her work chiefly concerns another equally spurious albeit more famous conspiracy from 1741.
1776 - The Declaration of Independence was proclaimed by the Second Continental Congress.
1803 - The Louisiana Purchase was announced to the American people; this single act by the Administration of President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the country, as well as opening up the Mississippi River to shipping.
1817 - Construction of the Erie Canal was begun near Rome, New York.
1827 - Slavery was abolished in New York State.
1845 - Henry David Thoreau embarked on a two-year experiment in simple living at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts; the result of his experience later formed the basis for his book Walden.
1855 - Walt Whitman's landmark book Leaves of Grass was published in Brooklyn.
1886 - The people of France offered the Statue of Liberty to the people of the United States.
1894 - The short-lived Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed by Sanford B. Dole; the republic was annexed by the United States on the same day four years later.
1910 - African-American boxer Jack Johnson knocked out white boxer James J. Jeffries at a heavyweight boxing match promoted by Tex Rickard in Reno, sparking race riots across the United States.
1939 - New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig announced his retirement from professional baseball, telling a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium that he felt like 'the luckiest man on the face of the Earth'; he died of amyotrophic lateral sclerois (ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's disease) in June 1941.
1966 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act, which went into effect the following year.
1969 - The Ohio Fireworks Derecho killed 18 and destroyed over 100 boats on Lake Erie.
1970 - American Top 40 made its radio debut, hosted by Casey Kasem. Kasem left the show in 2004; it's currently hosted by Ryan Seacrest.
1992 - The USS George Washington (CVN-73), a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, was commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia.
1997 - NASA's Pathfinder space probe landed on the surface of Mars.
2006 - Space Shuttle Discovery was launched towards the International Space Station on its mission, known as STS-121.
2007 - The Zaca Fire started in Santa Barbara, California, becoming the second-largest fire in California history.
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