On This Day

What Happened in May 1840

Historical Events


Historic PublicationPenny Black

May 1 "Penny Black", the world's first adhesive postage stamp issued by Great Britain
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The Penny Black stamp featured Queen Victoria
The Penny Black stamp featured Queen Victoria

Event of interestEvent of Interest

May 5 Thomas Carlyle begins his famous lecture series "The Hero as Divinity", later collected in his book "On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History"

Historian and Essayist Thomas Carlyle
Historian and Essayist
Thomas Carlyle
  • May 6 World's first adhesive postage stamp, the "Penny Black", is first used in Great Britain
  • May 7 Tornado strikes Natchez, Mississippi, kills 317
  • May 8 Alexander Wolcott patents Photographic Process
  • May 20 York Minster badly damaged by fire
  • May 21 Captain William Hobson proclaims British sovereignty over New Zealand; the North Island by treaty and the South Island by 'discovery'
  • May 22 The transporting of British convicts to the New South Wales colony is abolished

Famous Birthdays


Person of interestPyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

May 7 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian composer of the late-Romantic period (1812 Overture, Swan Lake), born in Votkinsk, Russia (d. 1893)

  • May 10 Hadzhi Dimitar, Bulgarian revolutionist (d. 1868)
  • May 11 Filippo Capocci, composer
  • May 13 Alphonse Daudet, French writer (Tartarin of Tarascon), born in Nîmes, France (d. 1897)
  • May 24 Frederick Walker, British social realist painter, born in London (d. 1875)
  • May 29 Hans Makart, Austrian painter (Plague in Florenz), born in Salzburg, Austria (d. 1884)

Famous Weddings


LoveWedding of Interest

May 1 Women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (24) weds fellow abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton (34)

Women's Rights Activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Women's Rights Activist
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Famous Deaths

  • May 5 Gottlob Benedikt Bierey, German composer, dies at 67
  • May 5 Matthäus Fischer, German organist and composer, dies at 76
  • May 6 Francisco de Paula Santander, Colombian president and independence leader (b. 1792)
  • May 7 Caspar David Friedrich, German painter (b. 1774)
  • May 26 Sidney Smith, British admiral, dies at 75
  • May 27 Niccolo Paganini, Italian composer and violin virtuoso (Princess Lucca), dies at 57
  • May 30 Dominique J de Eerens, gov-gen of Dutch-Indies, dies at 59