[It was with considerable razzmatazz that the Brooklyn Bridge was finally opened on this day in 1883, which was maybe less than appropriate, considering the tragedies that occurred during its construction - not the least of which were the death of its architect, John Roebling and the incapacitation of his son and successor, Washington Roebling. In fact, it was largely due to the indefatigable efforts of the younger Roebling's wife, Emily Warren Roebling, that the project was completed at all. The entire thrilling story is told in a work of popular history by David McCullough, called The Great Bridge, which naturally is housed in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute; the tale also opens Brooklyn Bridge (1981), the first documentary made by Ken Burns for PBS, which was narrated by McCullough.]
1487 - Lambert Simnel was crowned as 'King Edward VI' at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin; Simnel, along with Perkin Warbeck, was a pretender to the English throne which had been usurped by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485. Neither of them had any right to the throne, though, whereas Henry VII did*; so while the King was initially lenient towards them when they became a threat to his rule he reluctantly had them put to death.
*Sort of... At least a better one than either of them!
1621 - The Protestant Union was formally dissolved under pressure from Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor; the event was one of many factors contributing to the continuance of the Thirty Years' War.
1626 - Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from the Canarsee - a Metoac band related to the Lenape Nation - even though they had no right to sell it; the transaction greatly displeased the Weckquaesgeek (whose land it actually was) and who later fought the Dutch during Kieft's War in retaliation. The sale - for 60 guilders but often since rendered as $24 - has been used to bigoted ends ever since to prove the triumph of the supposedly superior European over the stupid heathens, but in fact the sale greatly strengthened the Canarsee in the region by not only undermining their rivals but helping them to obtain technology, since the sale was not in cash but in trade goods for that value, goods which enabled them to get the upper hand geopolitically.
1689 - The English Parliament passed the Act of Toleration protecting Protestant Nonconformists (in other words, those who dissented from the Church of England) from religious discrimination; Roman Catholics were intentionally excluded from protection.
1738 - John Wesley converted from Anglicanism, essentially launching the Methodist movement; the day is celebrated annually by Methodists as Aldersgate Day.
1798 - The Irish Rebellion of 1798 - led by the United Irishmen against British rule and inspired by both the American and French revolutions - began in the counties of Leinster and Kildare.
1830 - Mary Had a Little Lamb, a poem by Sarah Josepha Hale, was published.
1844 - When Samuel F. B. Morse sent a Bible quotation - 'What hath God wrought' (Numbers 23:23) - from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the US Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore along a single wire strung beside the track of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad it became the first message ever sent by telegraph.
1883 - The Brooklyn Bridge was opened to traffic after 14 years of construction, which had begun in January 1870.
1930 - Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, having departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown a total of 11,000 miles before landing at Darwin; the de Havilland Gipsy Moth in which she made her historic flight (and which she named 'Jason') is currently on display at the Science Museum in London.
1943 - Josef Mengele became chief medical officer at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
1962 - As part of NASA's Project Mercury, astronaut Scott Carpenter orbited the Earth three times in the Aurora 7 space capsule.
1970 - The drilling of the Kola Superdeep Borehole began in the Soviet Union.
1976 - At the so-called Judgment of Paris professional wine testers rated wines from California higher than their French counterparts, challenging the notion that France was the foremost producer of the world's best wines.
1989 - Sonia Sutcliffe - wife of Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, who was found guilty in 1981 of the gruesome murders of 13 women - was awarded £600,000* in damages after winning an action against Private Eye; the magazine's editor, Ian Hislop, had the temerity to suggest in print that there was a bidding war for Mrs. Sutcliffe's story - which there was, as was later proven - and famously stated following the trial 'If that's justice, then I'm a banana.' As for Private Eye, they scored a major PR coup by holding a fundraiser, known as the Bananaballs Fund, with the amount left over donated to the families of Sutcliffe's victims.
*The sum was later reduced to £60,000 on appeal, which at the time was £100,000 more than the previous record-holder for libel in Britain, and a hundred times greater than any compensation given to Sutcliffe's victims.
1990 - Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were critically injured when a pipe bomb planted in their car exploded in Oakland, California; the FBI initially attempted to charge them with the crime, but once it was proven to them that such a thing was not possible no further investigation was carried out. The culprit or culprits remain unknown.
1992 - The last Thai dictator, General Suchinda Kraprayoon, resigned following a series of pro-democracy protests known as Black May.
1993 - Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia with Isaias Afewerki as the new country's first Provisional President.
2001 - Owing to faulty construction the third story of the Versailles wedding hall - in Jerusalem's Talpiot suburb - collapsed, killing 23 and injuring more than 200 in what is considered Israel's worst-ever civil accident. In the aftermath of the disaster laws were passed which tightened the regulation of construction, and the hall's owners - Avraham Adi, Uri Nisim, and Efraim Adiv - were found guilty of causing death by negligence. The ruin was demolished in 2007, and the land remains unoccupied, although across the street there is a memorial garden honouring the victims.
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