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. “Secretariat” made regular appearances on a late-night talk show (okay, it was 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).
The mountain-peak logo of Paramount Pictures is one of the most familiar Hollywood symbols. Paramount was founded on May 8th, 1914.
Explorer Hernando de Soto traveled through the mountains and prairies to the Mississippi River on this date in 1541. De Soto was on the east bank, in modern-day Tennessee. It took a month for him and his traveling group of 400 to cross over to what is now Arkansas.
It’s the birthday of one man who made people afraid to go near the water, especially the ocean. Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws,” was born May 8th, 1940. Steven Spielberg’s film version of “Jaws” was the number-one movie of 1975. Benchley was born on the same day and year as singer Toni Tennille, who with husband Daryl Dragon (billed as the Captain and Tennille) had the number-one record of ’75, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
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.
July 2nd in history:
The first zeppelin flight in Germany happened on July 2nd, 1900.
Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were attempting to fly around the world on July 2nd, 1937, when they were heard from for the last time.
On this date in 2002, adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to complete an around-the-world, nonstop solo flight in a balloon.
Another adventurer used more than forty weather balloons filled with helium to let him fly in a lawnchair on July 2nd, 1982. Larry Walters rose to an altitude of about 15,000 feet over southern California, and stayed aloft for several hours. Walters became caught on a power line as his chair slowly descended, and he was famous for a brief time afterward as “Lawnchair Larry.”
Europeans first arrived in Minnesota on July 2nd, 1679, led by Daniel Greysolon Du Luht – better known as “DuLuth.”
Daniel DuLuth reached the Mississippi River from Lake Superior by way of the St. Croix River. Another European native, Englishman Tyrone Guthrie, established a theater company near the Mississippi River in Minneapolis in 1963. Guthrie was born July 2nd, 1900.