May 19th in history:
King Henry VIII and his relatives made history on May 19th in different years.
On this day in 1499, Catherine of Aragon was married by proxy to Henry’s brother Arthur, the Prince of Wales. When Arthur died months after their formal marriage, it was arranged for Catherine to marry Henry.
Henry ended his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn. But after Anne did not give Henry a male heir, he had her tried for treason. Anne was beheaded on May 19th, 1536.
Henry and Anne’s only child, Elizabeth, eventually became queen of England. On May 19th, 1568, Elizabeth had her rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, arrested.
May 19th is also the birthday of football royalty: quarterback Archie Manning (1949), the father of two quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls, Peyton and Eli Manning.
May 18th in history:
On May 18th, 1927, more than 40 people, mostly children, died in the deadliest attack on a school in U.S. history, when a bomb went off at a school in Bath Township, Michigan. The explosion was planned by a school board member, who was upset that rising property taxes used to fund the schools were driving him out of his farm home.
Another man-made blast, by a rocket, sent the Apollo 10 mission into space on May 18th, 1969. It was the second manned spacecraft to orbit the moon, and the crew rehearsed procedures needed for the landing of Apollo 11 two months later.
Nature created a major explosion on this date in 1980, when the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington State erupted. Fifty-seven people died in the explosion, which followed weeks of earthquakes and the venting of steam.
Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet began their journey to map the Mississippi River on May 17th, 1673. The trip started on Lake Michigan. The explorers traveled down the Wisconsin River to reach the Mississippi a month later, near the modern towns of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and Marquette, Iowa.
Marquette and Jolliet passed present-day Kentucky on their trek down the Mississippi. The first Kentucky Derby was run on this day in 1875 — not the first Saturday in May, or even a Saturday at all (it was a Monday). The winning horse was Aristides.
Secretariat set the record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby in 1973. Now, “Secretariat” makes regular appearances on a late-night talk show (okay, it’s two guys in a horse costume) on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Scottish comedian Ferguson was born May 17th, 1962. Before getting the hosting job on “The Late Late Show,” Ferguson played Drew’s boss on “The Drew Carey Show.”
And May 17th is the birthday of an actor famous for roles in movies about a river journey (“Apocalypse Now”) and a motorcycle trek (“Easy Rider”) — Dennis Hopper (born 1936).
May 16th in history:
“The bells, bells, bells, bells…”
Wedding bells for author Edgar Allan Poe and his cousin, Virginia Clemm, on May 16th, 1836. Edgar was 27, Virginia was 13. Some sources claim that the two had been married secretly for almost a year.
Did they eat cake at this wedding? Fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette married 15-year-old French Prince Louis-Auguste (who became King Louis XVI) on May 16th, 1770. One legend about Marie Antoinette is that Mozart said he wanted to marry her, when they met as young children.
Another flamboyant musician (one who didn’t marry) was born on this date in 1919 – the man with the candelabra on his piano, Liberace.
Actress Norma Shearer received an Oscar nomination in 1938 for playing Marie Antoinette. Shearer didn’t win that year, but she was named Best Actress for “The Divorcee” at the 3rd Academy Awards, in 1930. The very first Oscar ceremony happened on May 16th, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. ”Wings” was the first winner for Best Picture.
May 15th in history:
Some famous storytellers were born on May 15th. They include twins Anthony and Peter Shaffer (1926). Anthony wrote the play “Sleuth,” while Peter is famous for “Equus” and “Amadeus.” It’s also the birthday of L. Frank Baum (1856), who took readers to the Emerald City down the road of yellow brick in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
It may not have a yellow-brick road, but it does have a Golden Nugget (casino). The city of Las Vegas was founded on May 15th, 1905, when 110 acres of railroad property were auctioned off.
And the home of the Golden Arches was established on May 15th, 1940, when the McDonalds – brothers Dick and Mac – opened a restaurant in San Bernardino, California.
May 14th in history:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition began its journey up the Missouri River on May 14th, 1804, with William Clark leading a group of explorers from a camp in the Illinois territory. Meriwether Lewis met up with Clark’s group a week later.
The U.S. space program began a new chapter when Skylab was launched on May 14th, 1973, just five months after the last manned flight to the moon. Skylab was America’s first orbiting space station, and remained in orbit for six years.
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas was born on this date in 1944. Lucas also is famous for his collaboration with Steven Spielberg on the Indiana Jones movies. And it’s the birthday of Robert Zemeckis (1952), who directed and co-wrote the “Back to the Future” movies produced by Spielberg.
May 13th in history:
On May 13th, 1917, three young shepherds reported seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary for the first time at Fatima, Portugal.
One “Secret” reportedly revealed to the children by Mary has been interpreted as a prediction of an attack against a future Pope. On this date in 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded by a gunman in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
The founder of the Peoples Temple, Jim Jones, was born May 13th, 1931.
“God’ll get you for that” was a popular catch phrase spoken by the title character on the TV series “Maude.” Bea Arthur, born on this day in 1922, played Maude in the 1970′s, and later had another TV hit as Dorothy on “The Golden Girls.”
May 12th in history:
On May 12th, 1937, Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, the Duke of York, was officially crowned King of England, taking the name George VI. He already had been the king since the previous December, when his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry a divorced American woman.
Actor Colin Firth won an Oscar for playing Albert, or “Bertie,” in the movie The King’s Speech. Firth’s portrayal included frequent cursing, including some of the “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television,” immortalized in a routine by comedian George Carlin…born on the same day King George was crowned in 1937.
Carlin created the character of Al Sleet, the “hippie-dippie” weatherman. On May 12th, 1978, Al Sleet could have announced the news that the U.S. would start using men’s names for hurricanes again, after years of using only women’s names. (The name “George” already had been used for a hurricane in 1950.)
May 11th in history:
Nova Roma, not Constantinople …
On May 11th, 330 A.D., the city of Byzantium was renamed “Nova Roma” by Roman emperor Constantine I. After he died, the city became known as “Constantinople.”
Siam changed its name to Thailand on this date in 1949.
It’s the birthday of Berlin: songwriter Irving Berlin (1888). His last name was “Beilin,” but he switched it to “Berlin” after a misspelling on the sheet music for his first published song. And Fairbanks, Alaska, was named after Charles Fairbanks, born May 11th, 1852. He was Teddy Roosevelt’s vice-president.
May 10th in history:
On May 10th, 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. This was less than a year after Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Winston Churchill first became prime minister of Great Britain on this day in 1940. It was during Churchill’s second term in the 1950s that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for writing history books.
It’s the birthday of U2′s lead singer, Bono (1960), who has not won a Nobel Prize yet, but has been a frequent nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.