September 20 in history:
Explorer Ferdinand Magellan left Spain on September 20th, 1519, on a voyage to reach the Spice Islands by sailing west to reach the Pacific Ocean. Magellan’s ships were the first ones to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic, and eventually, one ship, the Victoria, became the first to travel around the world to return to Spain.
Lewis and Clark were headed back from the Pacific Ocean toward the Mississippi when they reached a white settlement in Missouri on this date in 1806. It took them another three days to reach St. Louis, ending the exploration of the Louisiana Territory which lasted more than two years.
The famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King took place on September 20th, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome, before a crowd of 30,000 and a worldwide TV audience. King was the defending women’s champion at Wimbledon. Riggs won the men’s title at Wimbledon 34 years earlier. The female pro defeated the older male pro in three straight sets.
On the same night that Billie Jean and Bobby dueled in Texas, singer Jim Croce and five other people died in the crash of a small plane headed for Texas. Croce had just performed that night at a college in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and the plane crashed shortly after take-off from that city’s airport. Croce’s song “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was a number-one hit that summer, and his follow-up, “I Got a Name,” was released the day after he died.
Pop singer Ricky Nelson died in a Texas plane crash in 1985. His twin sons, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, formed the rock band Nelson. They were born on September 20th, 1967. This is also the birthday of another set of rock-and-roll twins, Chuck and John Panozzo of Styx, born in 1948.
August 18 in history:
August 18th is the birthday of explorer Meriwether Lewis (1774), who traveled for more than two years with William Clark through the Louisiana Purchase territory and along the Pacific Coast.
It’s also the birthday of Virginia Dare (1587), the first child born at an English settlement in North America, the Roanoke Colony in present-day North Carolina. Virginia was the granddaughter of the settlement’s governor, John White, who returned to England for supplies shortly after her birth. White did not get back to Roanoke until Virginia’s third birthday in 1590, and found the colony deserted, with few clues about what happened to the settlers.
Countless modern birthday celebrations have included helium balloons. The existence of helium was discovered on August 18th, 1868 by French astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen, who was analyzing sunlight during a solar eclipse. It took a few more years for others to actually find the element on Earth.
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.
March 23rd in history:
Two pioneers of speed were born on March 23rd: Roger Bannister (1925), the first man to run a four-minute mile, and driver Craig Breedlove (1937), who was the first man to break a number of land-speed records.
Thanks to inventor Elisha Otis, buildings could rise higher than before – once his safety elevator came into common usage. Otis installed his first passenger elevator in a New York City building on March 23rd, 1857.
Explorers Lewis and Clark went as far as they could go in the western U.S. when they reached the Pacific Ocean. On this date in 1806, they began their journey home from the west coast.
The U.S. had never put two men in space at the same time until March 23rd, 1965, when astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young orbited the Earth three times aboard Gemini 3. Young got into trouble with NASA when he sneaked a corned beef sandwich into the space capsule, and tried to eat it in zero gravity.