This Day in History

Final Public Execution in the US (1936)
In 1936, convicted rapist Rainey Bethea was sentenced to be hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky, at a time when such hangings were conducted publicly. Because the county sheriff supervising the execution was a woman, the case sparked national press coverage, and up to 20,000 spectators gathered to watch the event, the last of its kind in the US. Two years later, the Kentucky legislature officially put an end to public executions. How did newspaper reports depict the hanging? Discuss

The Berlin Wall Goes Up (1961)
After World War II, the Soviet Union occupied East Berlin while control of West Berlin was split between the US, the UK, and France. From 1949 to 1961, more than 2 million East Germans fled to West Germany to escape Communist rule before the wall was built to stop the tide of defectors. First constructed of barbed wire and erected at night, the barrier was eventually replaced by a concrete structure studded with watchtowers manned by East German soldiers. What was the "Death Strip"?

Russian Submarine K-141 Kursk Sinks in Barents Sea (2000)
While completing naval exercises with dummy torpedoes on August 12, 2000, the Russian submarine Kursk suffered two explosions two minutes and 15 seconds apart. The second explosion registered about a 3.5 on the Richter scale. The blasts destroyed the front hull, and all 118 crew members died. It was initially believed that the entire crew died quickly. However, what evidence later suggested that some survived in another area of the submarine for about four hours after the explosions?

Today

Pope Pius VII (1742)
Pius VII became pope in 1800, at a time of turmoil for the Catholic Church. A decade earlier, during the early stages of the French Revolution, the National Assembly tried to subordinate the Church to the state. In 1801, Pius and Napoleon negotiated an end to the breach, but relations remained strained. In one notable incident, Napoleon took his crown from the pope's hands during a ceremony and crowned himself. What unusual headgear did Pius VII allegedly wear during his own coronation and why? Discuss

Frederick Sanger (1918)
After earning his PhD at Cambridge University in 1943, British biochemist Frederick Sanger decided to continue conducting his research at his alma mater. He remained there for the entirety of his four-decade career, making discoveries about the structure of proteins, particularly insulin, as well as DNA sequencing that would earn him not one but two Nobel prizes. He is only the fourth person in history to have earned this distinction. Who are the other three two-time Nobel laureates?

James Buchanan "Diamond Jim" Brady (1856)
Financier and philanthropist "Diamond Jim" Brady exemplified the American Dream. He started out as a bellboy and messenger before getting a job with the New York Central Railroad and then working his way up through the industry, eventually amassing a fortune selling railroad supplies. With his newfound wealth, he indulged in his two greatest weaknesses: food—one restaurant owner reportedly called him "the best 25 customers I ever had"—and jewels. What was supposedly a typical meal for Brady?

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