This Day in History

The Great Gold Robbery (1855)
On the night of May 15, 1855, a shipment of gold bars and coins was sent from London to Paris, first via the South Eastern Railway and then on a ship across the English Channel. When the shipment arrived in Boulogne, France, the containers—all of which were locked and sealed—were found to be missing a large amount of the gold, worth about 12,000 British pounds at the time. The missing weight had been replaced with lead shot. A group of men was later arrested for the theft. How had they done it? Discuss

Seinfeld Series Finale Airs (1998)
One of the most successful situation comedies in the history of television, Seinfeld is often described as a show about nothing. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the latter of whom starred as a fictionalized version of himself on the show, it featured a collection of selfish and neurotic characters obsessed with the minutiae of everyday life. After nine seasons, the series came to an end. In its final episode, the four main characters find themselves incarcerated for what crime?

Pope John Paul II Shot in Vatican City (1981)
In 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot in Vatican City's St. Peter's Square by Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca, who was captured and imprisoned. Although the pontiff was shot in the stomach, he recovered and publicly forgave his would-be assassin. In spite of the physical setback caused by the shooting, he continued to travel widely, eventually visiting 129 nations and increasing the international character of the papacy. What now marks the site of the shooting in St. Peter's Square?


Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (1857)
Shortly after Fleming emigrated from Scotland to the US with her husband, their marriage failed. Forced to support herself, she worked as a housekeeper for the director of the Harvard College Observatory, who soon hired her to do clerical work at the observatory. She quickly rose through the ranks and went on to make significant contributions to the field of astronomy—classifying thousands of stars and discovering numerous variable stars and novae. At what age did her formal education end? Discuss

Adolf Frederick of Sweden (1710)
King of Sweden from 1751 until his death 20 years later, Adolf Frederick was, for the entirety of his reign, largely just a figurehead. Most of the power actually rested with the Riksdag, Sweden's parliament. Twice he tried to free himself of its control. The first attempt ended disastrously, with Adolf Frederick nearly losing his throne. His second attempt met with greater success, but the victory ultimately did little to increase his power. In what memorable and unusual way did he die?

Jim Jones (1931)
An influential Indianapolis preacher, Jones formed the People's Temple in 1955. After he became the subject of criminal investigations, particularly regarding his alleged diversion of cult members' donations for his personal use, he and about 1,000 followers relocated to Jonestown, Guyana, in 1977. In 1978, cult members killed US Representative Leo Ryan and four others during an investigatory visit. The next day, Jones orchestrated the mass murder-suicide of how many of his followers?