[While rewards were paid for the capture of his accomplices George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell, no one ever claimed the money set aside to bring Abraham Lincoln's assassin to justice; for this reason, numerous fanciful stories have circulated that John Wilkes Booth didn't actually die on this day in 1865 as history records. While the official report on the matter is a pretty dry read, for something wetter - downright juicy even! - try Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, by James Swanson, one of the Pop Culture Institute's most highly recommended books.]
1336 - Italian sonneteer Petrarch made an ascent of Mt. Ventoux accompanied by his brother; he later claimed to have been the first person to climb the mountain since antiquity, which he was not. Ironically, that honour rightly belongs to the French priest Jean Buridan, whose scientific studies into impetus and inertia were some of the most important made in the Middle Ages, and whose own impetus to climb the mountain easily overrode whatever inertia he might have felt toward the task.
1478 - As part of the Pazzi Conspiracy Francesco de' Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini attacked Lorenzo de' Medici and killed his brother Giuliano during High Mass in the Duomo of Florence.
1607 - English colonists bound for Virginia's Jamestown Settlement made landfall at Cape Henry.
1865 - Twelve days after US President Abraham Lincoln was shot (and 11 days after he died) Union cavalry troopers led by Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty cornered his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, in a tobacco barn at Garrett's Farm near Bowling Green, Virginia. With him was an accomplice, David Herold, who surrendered almost immediately. Despite setting fire to the barn in order to flush him out, the wounded Booth (he broke his leg fleeing from Ford's Theatre the night he shot Lincoln) would not be budged. Booth was eventually shot in the neck by Boston Corbett (shown, at right) in almost the same place Booth had shot Lincoln - behind the left ear; paralyzed, Booth was taken to the Garrett farmhouse, where he died three hours later on their porch, mumbling the words 'Useless, useless...'.
1925 - Paul von Hindenburg defeated Wilhelm Marx in the second round of the German presidential election to become the first directly elected head of state of the Weimar Republic.
1933 - The Geheime Staatspolizei - better known as the Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany - was established.
1937 - The Spanish town of Guernica was bombed by the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion and Italy's Aviazione Legionaria; code named Operation Rügen, it was one of the gravest atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War.
1946 - Father Divine, a controversial religious leader who claimed to be God, married the much-younger Edna Rose Ritchings; theirs remains a celebrated anniversary in the International Peace Mission movement.
1962 - A computer error caused NASA's Ranger 4 spacecraft to crash into the dark side of the moon, rendering the device unable to perform any of its necessary tasks.
1964 - Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.
1966 - An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 destroyed Tashkent.
1970 - The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization entered into force.
1982 - A shooting spree in which 57 people were killed by former South Korean police officer Woo Bum-kon began in Gyeongsangnam-do.
1986 - A nuclear reactor accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine caused the worst nuclear disaster in history.
1991 - Seventy tornadoes broke out in the central United States; before the outbreak's end Andover, Kansas, would record the year's only F5 tornado.
1994 - An Airbus A300-600R carrying China Airlines Flight 140 crashed at Japan's Nagoya Airport killing everyone on board, with a death toll amounting to 264.
2002 - Robert Steinhäuser infiltrated Gutenberg-Gymnasium in the German town of Erfurt, managing to kill 17 at the school before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot.
2005 - Under international pressure, Syria withdrew the last of its 14,000 troop military garrison in Lebanon, ending its 29-year military domination of that country.
2007 - Hong Kong's Queen's Pier was officially closed by the government, after a bitter struggle by conservationists, in order to facilitate land reclamation in the city's central business district.
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