ON THIS DAY--MAY
(Copyright 2004, Literary Liaisons, Ltd. DO NOT REPRODUCE or distribute without permission.)
For a more comprehensive list, including a Year by Year
timeline, see our Research Guide.
May 1st. . .
1218--Rudolf I of Hapsburg, King of Germany who founded the
Imperial Hapsburg dynasty, born.
1672--Joseph Addison, English poet and co-founder of the Spectator,
1700--John Dryden, English poet and Poet Laureate, died.
1707--The Union with Scotland and England was proclaimed.
1840--The first Penny Black stamps with Queen Victoria's
silhouette went on sale five days before the official issue date.
1841--The London Library, founded by Thomas Carlyle,
Gladstone, Lord Macauley and others, opened.
1851--Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition in the
Crystal Palace in Hyde Park.
1859--John Walker, English chemist who invented the first
friction matches, died.
1873--David Livingstone, Scottish explorer, died.
1889--In Germany, the Bayer company introduced aspirin in a
May 2nd. . .
1519--Leonardo da Vinci, Florentine artist, died.
1660--Alessandro Scarlatti, Italian composer, born.
1670--The Hudson Bay Company was incorporated as "The
Governor and the Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson
1729--Catherine II (the Great), Empress of Russia, born.
1810--Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, English writer of Brewer's
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, born.
1857--Louis Charles Alfred de Musset, French playwright, died
of a heart attack.
1859--Jerome K. Jerome, English humorous novelist and
1860--Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism, born.
May 3rd. . .
1469--Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, Italian author and
1494--Columbus discovered Jamaica on his second expedition.
1500--The Portuguese explorer, Pedro Alvarez Cabral, claimed
Brazil for his nation.
1606--Henry Garnet, English priest who knew of the Gunpowder
Plot, was found guilty of treason and hanged this day.
1788--The first daily evening newspaper, the Star
and Evening Advertiser, was published in London.
1808--The first duel fought from two hot-air balloons took
place above Paris. A Monsieur Le
Pique was killed.
1810--Lord Byron swam the Hellespont in Turkey, taking one
hour, ten minutes.
1844--Richard D'Oyly Carte, English impresario and producer
of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, born.
1874--Francois Coty, perfume manufacturer, born in Corsica.
May 4th. . .
1471--The Yorkists under Edward IV defeated the Lancastrians
under Queen Margaret of Anjou, consort of Henry VI, at the Battle of Tewkesbury.
Henry's son, Prince Edward, was killed in the battle.
1655--Bartolommeo di Francesco Cristofori, harpsichord maker
who made the first pianoforte, born.
1769--Sir Thomas Lawrence, English portrait painter, born.
1780--The first Epsom Derby was won by Charles Bunbury's
1825--Thomas Henry Huxley, English naturalist and humanist,
1827--John Hanning Speke, English explorer who was the first
European to see Lake Victoria, born.
1839--The Cunard Shipping Line was founded by Sir Samuel
1852--Alice Liddell, the inspiration of Lewis Carroll's Alice
In Wonderland, born.
1863--The Maori uprising against the British began in New
1896--The first edition of the half-penny Daily
Mail was published.
May 5th. . .
1760--The first hanging took place at Tyburn in London; Earl
Ferrers was executed for murdering his steward.
1800--Louis Hachette, French bookseller, publisher and
1813--Soren Aaby Kierkegaarde, Danish philosopher and
1815--Eugene Martin Labiche, French playwright of over 100
comedies, farces and sketches, born.
1818--Karl Marx, German author and founder of international
1821--Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, died in exile on
the Atlantic Island of St. Helena.
1830--John Batterson Stetson, American hat manufacturer of
the wide-brimmed 'cowboy' Stetson hat, born.
1846--Henryk Sienkiewicz, Polish novelist of Quo
1865--The first train robbery took place, near North Bend,
1867--Nellie Bly, American journalist and campaigner of
women's rights, born.
May 6th. . .
1626--A Dutch settler, Paul Minuit, bought what is now
Manhattan Island from the local American native Indians for a handful of
trinkets worth approximately $25.
1642--Montreal was officially established under its original
name, 'Ville Marie'.
1733--The first international boxing match took place at
Figg's Amphitheatre, London, when Bob Whittaker beat Italy's Tito di Carni.
1758--Maximillien Robespierre, leader of the French
1840--The first postage stamps, the 'Penny Black' and
two-penny 'blues' officially went on sale in Britain.
1851--U.S. inventor Linus Yale patented his Yale lock.
1856--Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist and father of
modern psychology, born. ALSO--Robert
Edwin Peary, U.S. polar explorer, born.
1862--Henry David Thoreau, U.S. poet and essayist, died.
1875--The first Kentucky Derby was run for three-year-olds at
Churchill Downs track, Louisville, Kentucky.
May 7th. . .
1663--The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, built by Thomas
Killigrew, opened under a charter granted by Charles II with a performance of The
1763--Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa Indians, rose up against
the English garrison at Detroit and laid siege to it for five months.
1812--Robert Browning, Victorian English poet, born.
1823--The deaf Beethoven conducted the first performance of
his Ninth Symphony in Vienna.
1832--Greece was proclaimed an independent kingdom.
1833--Johannes Brahms, German composer and pianist, born.
1840--Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian composer of Swan
Lake and Sleeping Beauty, born.
1888--George Eastman petented his Kodak box camera, a name he
felt would be easy to remember.
1890--James Nasmyth, Scottish engineer and inventor of the
steam hammer, died.
May 8th. . .
1794--Antoine Lavoisier, French chemist who identified
oxygen, was guillotined because he had once accepted the office of farmer
general of taxes.
1828--Jean Henri Dumant, Swiss founder of the Red Cross,
1849--The first international yacht race was won by Pearl
of Bermuda when she beat the U.S. yacht Brenda.
1854--Captain Barclay-Allardice, English long-distance walker
who covered 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours, died.
1873--John Stuart Mill, English political and economic
philosopher and reformer, died.
1876--Truganini, the last Tasmanian Aborigine, died.
1880--Gustave Flaubert, French novelist of Madame
1884--Harry S. Truman, 33rd U.S. President, born.
May 9th. . .
1657--William Bradford, Pilgrim Father and Governor of
Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, died.
1671--Colonel Thomas Blood, Irish adventurer, gained entry to
the Tower of London and stole the crown jewels.
1785--Joseph Bramah patented the beer pump handle.
1800--John Brown, U.S. abolitionist, born.
1805--Johann Cristoph Friedrich von Schiller, German romantic
poet and playwright, died.
1860--Sir J.M. Barrie, Scottish playwright best known for Peter
1873--Howard Carter, English Egyptologist who discovered the
tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, born.
1887--Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show opened at West Brompton,
London, as part of the American Exhibition.
1896--The first Horseless Carriage Show opened to the motor
trade, with ten models on show at London's Imperial Institute.
May 10th. . .
1566--Leonhard Fuchs, German botanist after whom fuchsias are
1655--The English captured Jamaica from the Spanish.
1760--Claude Joseph de Lisle, French army officer who wrote
and composed Marseillaise, born.
1774--Louis XV, King of France, died of smallpox.
1798--George Vancouver, English navigator and explorer, died.
1818--Paul Revere, American Revolutionary War hero, died.
1838--John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln, born.
1850--Sir Thomas Lipton, Scottish errand boy turned
multimillionaire grocer by such innovative methods as putting tea in bags, born.
1857--The Sepoy Rebellion broke out in Meerat.
1863--Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson, Confederate general, died
from wounds after being shot in error by his own troops.
1865--Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was
taken prisoner by Union forces at Irvinsville, Georgia.
1869--The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met at
Promontory, Utah, where the lines were linked to complete the transcontinental
May 11th. . .
868--The first printed book, known as the Diamond
Sutra, was published in China.
1610--Matteo Ricci, Italian Jesuit missionary to China, died.
1686--Otto von Guericke, German physicist who demonstrated
the vacuum, died.
1708--Jules Hardouin-Mansart, French architect who designed
the Galerie de Glaces at Versailles, died.
1720--Baron von Karl Munchhausen, German hunter and soldier,
1778--William Pitt (the Elder), first Earl of Chatham, died.
1811--The original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng, were born of
Chinese parents in Siam.
1812--Spencer Perceval, British Prime Minister, was shot and
killed by a bankrupt Liverpool broker.
1848--Tom Cribb, English prizefighter, died.
1858--Minnesota became the 32nd state of the Union.
1871--Sir John Herschel, British astronomer royal, died.
12th. . .
Hamilton, lover of Admiral Horatio Nelson, baptized.
Baron von Liebig, German chemist who discovered chloroform, born.
Lear, English artist and humorous poet of the Book
of Nonsense, born.
Nightingale, English hospital reformer, born.
Gabriel Rossetti, English poet and Pre-Raphaelite painter, born.
Massenet, French composer of the opera Manon,
Faure, composer and organist, born.
Charles Barry, English architect who rebuilt the Houses of Parliament, died.
Red River Colony, now called Manitoba, was purchased from the Hudson Bay Company
by Canada and became a province.
London Swimming Association drafted the rules of water polo.
13th. . .
first permanent English settlement in America was established with the landing
of soldiers from three ships on the Virginian coast at Jamestown.
Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, born.
Butler, English social reformer, born.
Nash, English architect and town planner of Regent Street and Regent's Park,
Arthur Sullivan, English composer (The
Pirates of Penzance) associated with the librettist, W.S. Gilbert, born.
team of Aboriginal cricketers arrived to play 47 matches, the first Australian
team to travel to England.
Young, Scottish industrial chemist who was the first to produce paraffin oil,
Hall McCormick, U.S. inventor of the mechanical harvester, died.
14th. . .
IV of France was assassinated by Francois Ravailac, a Jesuit fanatic.
XIV, aged four, became King of France on the death of his father, Louis XIII.
Gainsborough, English painter who was a founder of the English School of
portrait and landscape painting, born.
British government imposed a tax on importing tea into America.
Jenner carried out his first successful vaccination against smallpox.
first edition of the London Illustrated
News was published.
first steamship to navigate the world, HMS Driver,
arrived back at Spithead.
trial began of William Palmer, a doctor who poisoned creditors, four of his
illegitimate children, his mother-in-law, his wife and other relations.
15th. . .
machine gun was patented by a London lawyer, James Puckle.
Clemens Metternich of the Austrian Empire, born.
Hatfield attempted to assassinate George III at Drury Lane.
Kean, English actor, died.
Frank Baum, American journalist and playwright who created The
Wonderful Wizard of Oz, born.
Curie, French scientist who with his wife discovered radium, born.
first baseball stadium was opened at Union Grounds, Brooklyn.
Dickinson, whose thousands of poems remained unpublished until after her death,
Whitaker, English publisher of Whitaker's
16th. . .
Perrault, French fairy-tale writer of Sleeping
Beauty and Red Riding Hood, died.
Johnson and James Boswell met for the first time, at Tom Davie's bookshop in
Russell Street. ALSO--Louis Vauquelin,
French scientist who discovered chromium, born.
Dauphin of France (later Louis XVI) married Marie Antoinette.
de Balzac, French novelist, born.
General Beresford was victorious over Napoleon's Marshal Soult at the battle of
Edward Hughes, U.S. inventor of the telegraph typewriter and microphone, born in
Bernard Spilsbury, British pathologist known for his conclusive evidence in the
trial of 'Dr.' Crippen, born.
Berliner gave the first demonstration of flat disc recording and reproduction
before members of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.
17th. . .
secret wife of Abelard, died.
Botticelli, Italian painter, died.
first merry-go-round is referred to in records as being set up at a fair in
Jenner, English surgeon and pioneer of vaccination, born.
Norman Lockyer, English astronomer and co-discoverer of helium, born.
first package holiday arranged by Thomas Cook set off for Paris.
Satie, French composer, born of Scottish parents.
first weekly comic paper, Comic Cuts,
was published by Alfred Harmsworth, in London.
18th. . .
d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua, patron of art and letters, born.
Lukin, English coachbuilder, born.
Bonaparte was proclaimed Emperor of France.
Corder murdered Maria Marten in the Red Barn, Polstead, Sussex, after luring her
there on the promise of marriage. The
murder became the subject of ballads and melodramas.
Budding of Gloucestershire signed an agreement for the manufacture of his
invention, the lawn mower.
Jackson, American missionary, born.
Steinitz, chess master and world champion, born in Czechoslovakia.
II, last Tsar of Russia, born.
Russell, the third Earl Russell, English philosopher, mathematician and Nobel
Prize recipient, born.
19th. . .
Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, mother of Elizabeth I, was beheaded at Tower
Green after being accused of incest and adultery.
Publick Advertiser first appeared in London, devoted entirely to
Montague, 1st Earl of Halifax, politician, poet and founder of the
Bank of England, died.
Boswell, biographer of Dr. Johnson, died.
instituted the Legion d'honneur to be
awarded for civil and military distinction of the highest order.
Nellie Melba, Australian operatic soprano, born.
Hawthorne, U.S. novelist and short-story writer, and author of The Scarlet Letter, died.
Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount, English politician and proprietor of the
Observer newspaper, born.
Gladstone, British statesman and Prime Minister, died.
20th. . .
was established as a republic by Cola di Rienza, tribune of the people who had
driven out the nobles and senators.
Henry Percy, supporter of Henry IV and model for Shakespeare's Hotspur, born.
da Gama arrived at Calicut, southern India, via the newly-discovered route via
what would be named the Cape of Good Hope.
Columbus, Italian navigator, died.
Thornton, U.S. architect of the Capitol building, Washington, born.
de Balzac, French novelist, born.
George Fargo, U.S. founder, with Henry Wells and Daniel Dunning of Wells Fargo,
Joseph Gilbert de Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, French soldier and statesman,
Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Royal Albert Hall.
1895--Income tax was declared unconstitutional in the United States.
21st. . .
VI, King of England, was murdered in the Tower of London where he had been
imprisoned by Edward. ALSO--Albrecht
Durer, German painter and engraver who became court painter for Charles V, born.
remote island of St. Helena was discovered by Portuguese explorer Joao de Nova.
de Soto, Spanish explorer of South America and the Mississippi area where he
died this day from a fever.
Pope, English poet and satirist who wrote The
Rape of the Lock, born.
Fry, English Quaker and prison reformer, born.
Pere Lachaise, burial ground of the famous, opened in Paris.
Zealand was proclaimed a British colony.
Rousseau, French painter, born.
first eight-hour working day was achieved by Australian stonemasons in Victoria.
Victoria opened the Manchester Ship Canal.
22nd. . .
the Great, Roman emperor, died.
Lancastrians defeated the Yorkists at St. Albans in the first battle in the War
of the Roses. Henry VI was taken
prisoner by the Yorkists.
Sturgeon, English physicist who built the first moving-coil galvanometer, born.
Scottish explorer, Mungo Park, set sail on his first voyage to Africa which he
would relate in his Travels in the
Interior of Africa.
than 40,000 men were killed or wounded at the battle of Aspern-Essling between
the armies of Napoleon and Archduke Charles Louis of Austria.
Wagner, German composer of the Ring,
Arthur Conan Doyle, Scottish-born novelist of Irish parents, who created the
detective Sherlock Holmes, born.
Hugo, French author of Les Miserables,
23rd. . .
Savonarola, Italian religious and political reformer, strangled and burnt at the
VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, resulting in a break
with the church in Rome.
William Kidd, Scottish privateer-turned-pirate, was hanged with three others at
London's Execution Docks.
defeated the French at the Battle of Ramillies.
Linnaeus, Swedish botanist, born.
Mesmer, Austrian physician who developed the technique of 'mesmerism' or
Charles Barry, English architect who designed the Houses of Parliament, born.
cartoon by Gilray was published which gave the Bank of England its nickname,
'The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.'
Hood, English poet, journalist and humorist, born.
Carson, American frontiersman, died.
French crown jewels went on sale and raised six million francs.
24th. . .
Copernicus, Polish astronomer, died.
Fahrenheit, German physicist who invented the mercury thermometer, born.
Wesley experienced his conversion. This
was the start of Wesley's Methodism.
Paul Marat, French revolutionary leader, born.
Prison opened to house French prisoners-of-war.
1819--Victoria, Queen of England from 1837 to 1901, born.
Crockford, English fishmonger and gambler who opened the gambling club
Crockfords in 1827, died. ALSO--Samuel Morse transmitted the first message of the US Telegraph
line from Washington to Baltimore in Morse code.
Arthur Wing Pinero, English playwright of The
Second Mrs. Tanqueray, born.
Brown, US anti-slavery campaigner, led the Free-Staters to massacre pro-slavers
at Pottawatamie Creek.
Westminster Bridge opened.
1883--The Brooklyn Bridge opened over the East River in New York.
25th. . .
Charles II of England rowed ashore from the Royal
Charter at Dover, ending his nine-year exile, and with it, Puritanism.
Poussin, French landscape painter, died.
Cook set sail on his first voyage in the Endeavour
which circumnavigated New Zealand.
Philadelphia Convention met under George Washington to draw up the U.S.
Waldo Emerson, U.S. poet and essayist, born.
first flower show in Britain was held at the Royal Horticultural Society in
Chiswick, west London.
first drama school in Britain, Miss Kelly's Theatre and Dramatic School, opened
in Dean Street.
first hippopotamus arrived in Britain for Regent's Park Zoo.
House of Commons passed the Bank Holiday Act creating the now-established public
holidays of Easter Monday, Whit Monday and Christmas Day.
first mutton from New Zealand arrived in Britain.
26th. . .
first Archbishop of Canterbury, died.
Venerable Bede, English monk, scholar and writer, died.
Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, English general and statesman, born.
Pepys, English Admiralty official and diarist, died.
Kay patented the Flying Shuttle to operate on Richard Arkwright's spinning
was crowned King of Italy, in Milan Cathedral.
Confederate General Kirby Smith surrendered in Texas to end the American Civil
Mary, wife of King George V, born Princess Mary of Teck.
Barrett, Irish nationalist responsible for the Clerkenwell Outrage which left 13
dead, was hanged outside Newgate Prison, the last public execution in England.
27th. . .
Calvin, French theologian who promoted the Protestant Revolution, died.
Habeas Corpus Act, which demands that the prisoner must be brought before the
courts, not unlawfully detained, was passed in Britain.
Peter the Great proclaimed St. Petersburg the new Russian capital.
Henry Parkes, Australian statesman, born in England.
Bloomer, U.S. women's rights campaigner who in 1849 designed 'bloomers', born.
Ward Howe, U.S. suffragette, born.
Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok, U.S. frontiersman and Civil War scout, born.
Paganini, Italian virtuoso violinist, died.
first Chess International Masters tournament was held in London and was won by
Adolf Andersen of Germany.
28th. . .
Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon under the command of the Duke of Medina
Sidonia to invade England.
Ignace Guilllotin, French physician and revolutionary who suggested a
decapitating machine, born.
first indoor swimming-pool in England opened in London.
The entrance fee was one guinea.
Pitt the Younger, English statesman and Prime Minister, born.
Moore, poet of Lalla Rookh, born in
Boccherini, Italian cellist and composer, died.
Webster, U.S. lexicographer and publisher of Webster's
Bronte, author of The Tenant of Wildfell
water was patented by Erasmus Bond of London.
first world weightlifting championships were held at the Cafe Monico,
29th. . .
fell to the Turkish army after a year's siege.
Diaz, Portuguese explorer, drowned at sea during a voyage with Cabral, the
discoverer of Brazil.
II, King of England, born.
II returned to London to be restored as King of England.
Lebon, French chemist who developed gas illumination, born.
John Walker, English inventor of the friction match, born.
the Virginia Assembly, Patrick Henry challenged the proposed taxing of the
American Colonies by the Stamp Act.
Humphrey Davy, English chemist and inventor of the miner's safety lamp, born.
became the 38th state of the Union.
this Monday, Britain enjoyed its first Bank Holiday.
first steam cable tramway began operating in London's Highgate.
30th. . .
set sail on his third voyage of discovery which would take him to the South
Seymour became Henry VIII's third wife.
Marlowe, English playwright, killed in a tavern brawl.
Paul Rubens, Flemish painter, died.
Grenadier Guards were formed in the British Army.
Pope, English poet and satirist, died.
French philosopher, historian, playwright and novelist of Candide, died.
Bakunin, Russian anarchist, born.
Francis attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria as she rode in her carriage with
Carl Faberge, Russian goldsmith, born.
Marie Janet, French psychologist, born.
31st. . .
Italian painter of The Last Judgment,
Pepys stopped writing his diary because of failing eyesight.
Cruden, Scottish bookseller who published his Biblical
Concordance in 1737, born.
Joseph Haydn, Austrian composer, died.
Whitman, U.S. poet of The Leaves of Grass,
Grimaldi, English clown and comic actor, died.
last battle on English soil took place at the Battle of Bosendon Wood, when 40
peasants and a Cornish wine merchant led an armed uprising of Kentish peasants.
Pius XI, scholar, librarian and diplomat, born.
Ben began tolling the time this day.
flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania brought great loss of life and property.
began on the Trans-Siberian Railway.