[The Old Metropolitan Opera House, at 1411 Broadway - designed by J. Cleaveland Cady - occupied an entire block between W. 39th and W.40th; following a fire in August 1892 it was rebuilt along its original lines. After the company moved to posher digs at Lincoln Center in April 1966, a gala finale concert was given; unable to repurpose or renovate the building, or even secure landmark status for it, it was torn down in 1967 and replaced with an office tower which today provides the company with valuable revenue.]
1383 - When Portugal's King Fernando I died without a male heir it brought about the 1383-1385 Crisis, a period of civil war and disorder; his daughter Beatrice (by Leonor Telles de Menezes) and son-in-law John I of Castile tried to hold the throne, but ultimately the crown went to João I, the dead king's illegitimate half-brother, who became the first monarch of the House of Aviz following his victory at the Battle of Aljubarrota in April 1385.
1575 - The Mexican city of Aguascalientes was founded by Juan de Montoro.
1633 - Following the Ming Dynasty's fight with Dutch East India Company at the Battle of Southern Fujian Sea, Chinese forces commanded by Zheng Zhilong won a great victory.
1797 - One thousand meters (3,200 feet) above Paris' Parc Monceau, André-Jacques Garnerin made the first recorded parachute jump, landing without injury in front of a crowd of admiring spectators.
1836 - Sam Houston was inaugurated as the first President of the Republic of Texas.
1844 - Millerites - followers of William Miller - anticipated the end of the world in conjunction with the Second Coming of Christ, in what came to be known as The Great Anticipation; when nothing happened, the following day became known as the Great Disappointment, and many of Miller's followers simply abandoned their beliefs.
1877 - Scotland's Blantyre mine disaster killed 207.
1879 - Thomas Edison's preliminary test of the incandescent light bulb lasted 13.5 hours.
1883 - New York City's Metropolitan Opera House opened with a performance of Charles Gounod's opera Faust, starring the Swedish soprano Christine Nilsson.
1895 - At Paris' Gare Montparnasse train station the Granville-Paris express derailed into the Places des Rennes (shown at right). This sensational photo was made by Levy & Sons, and remained popular throughout the Surrealist period of the 1920s for its depiction of a world gone mad.
1907 - A run on Knickerbocker Trust Company stock set events in motion that would lead to a depression called the Panic of 1907.
1910 - After a jury deliberated for just 27 minutes, Dr. Crippen was found guilty of killing his wife, Cora, a failed singer and actress known professionally as Belle Elmore; his lover, Ethel Le Neve, was acquitted of any complicity, and lived until 1967. The case was a huge cause célèbre in its day, partly because Crippen was the first murderer caught with the aid of wireless communication technology.
1924 - Toastmasters International was founded.
1926 - J. Gordon Whitehead sucker punched magician Harry Houdini in the stomach in Montreal, which may have led to Houdini's untimely death just nine days later.
1934 - In East Liverpool, Ohio, notorious bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd was shot and killed by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents under the command of Melvin Purvis.
1941 - 17-year-old Guy Môquet, a hero of the French Resistance, was executed by the Nazis, along with 29 other hostages, in retaliation for the killing of Karl Hotz, the commanding officer of occupation forces in the French département of Loire-Inférieure.
1964 - Jean-Paul Sartre turned down the Nobel Prize for Literature, apparently.
1986 - Jane Dornacker died when the WNBC traffic helicopter she was reporting from crashed into the Hudson River; the pilot, Bill Pate, was badly injured although he did survive the crash. Dornacker survived an earlier helicopter crash the previous April 18th over New Jersey's Hackensack River.
1999 - Maurice Papon, an official in the government of Vichy France during World War II, was jailed for crimes against humanity.
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