On This Day

What Happened in May 1879

Historical Events

  • May 8 George Selden files for 1st patent for a gasoline-driven automobile
  • May 10 Meteor falls near Estherville, Iowa
  • May 14 The first group of 463 Indian indentured labourers arrive in Fiji aboard the Leonidas
  • May 16 Antonin Dvorák's "Slavic Dancing" premieres
  • May 16 Treaty of Gandamak to set up Afghan state between Russia & English
  • May 20 5th Kentucky Derby: Charlie Shauer aboard Lord Murphy wins in 2:37
  • May 21 Battle of Iquique: Chilean naval forces overcome Peruvian ships (War of the Pacific)
  • May 24 7th Preakness: L Hughes aboard Harold wins in 2:40.5
  • May 30 92°F highest temperature ever recorded in Cleveland in May
  • May 30 Gilmore Garden (NYC) renamed Madison Square Garden
  • May 30 An F4 tornado strikes Irving, Kansas, killing 18 and injuring 60.
  • May 31 1st electric railway opens at Berlin Trades Exposition

Event of interestEvent of Interest

May 31 Madison Square Garden opens in New York, named after 4th President James Madison

4th US President James Madison
4th US President
James Madison

Famous Birthdays


Person of interestJames F. Byrnes

May 2 James F. Byrnes, American politician and statesman influential in domestic and foreign policy in the mid-1940s, born in Charleston, South Carolina (d. 1972)

Politician and US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes
Politician and US Secretary of State
James F. Byrnes
  • May 3 Fergus McMaster, Australian businessman and aviation pioneer (Qantas), born in Morinish, Queensland (d. 1950)
  • May 6 Tobias Norlind, Swedish musicologist, born in Vellinge, Sweden (d. 1947)
  • May 6 Bedřich Hrozný, Czech orientalist and linguist (development of Hittitology), born in Lysá nad Labem, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (d. 1952)
  • May 10 Symon Petlyura, Ukrainian socialist leader (pogroms), born in Poltava, Ukraine, Russian Empire (d. 1926)
  • May 10 Symon Petlura, Ukrainian statesman (d. 1926)
  • May 19 Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, US/Eng's feminist/ex of Waldorf Astor
  • May 22 Eastwood Lane, American composer, born in Brewerton, New York (d. 1951)
  • May 22 Jean Cras, French composer, born in Brest, France (d. 1932)
  • May 22 Warwick Armstrong, Australian cricketer (Big Ship Great Aussie skipper 1920-21), born in Kyneton, Australia (d. 1947)
  • May 22 Alla Nazimova, Ukrainian-born actress, scriptwriter, and producer (Blood and Sand), born in Yalta, Taurida Governorate, Russian Empire (d. 1945)
  • May 23 Dezső Lauber, Hungarian sportsman (d. 1966)
  • May 24 H. B. Reese, American inventor of Reese's, born in York County, Pennsylvania (d. 1956)
  • May 25 William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, Canadian English newspaper publisher (Daily Express), born in Maple, Ontario (d. 1964)
  • May 27 Lucile Watson, Canadian actress (Great Lie, Watch on the Rhine, Let's Dance), born in Québec, Canada (d. 1962)
  • May 27 Hans Lammers, German SS officer and Nazi politician, born in Lublinitz, Silesia, Prussia, German Empire (d. 1962)
  • May 28 Milutin Milanković, Serbian astronomer and geophysicist (linked long-term changes in climate to astronomical factors affecting the amount of solar energy received at Earth’s surface), born in Dalj, Austria-Hungary (d. 1958)
  • May 30 Colin Blythe, English cricketer (outstanding slow lefty pre-WWI), born in Deptford (d. 1917)
  • May 31 Mark Hambourg, Russian-British composer, born in Boguchar, Russia (d. 1960)

Famous Deaths

  • May 4 William Froude, British civil eng/shipbuilder (F Integer), dies at 68
  • May 15 Gottfried Semper, German architect (b. 1803)
  • May 17 Asa Packer, railroad magnate and founder of Lehigh Valley Railroad (b. 1805)
  • May 21 Arturo Prat, Chilean naval officer (b. 1848)

Person of interestWilliam Lloyd Garrison

May 24 William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist (Liberator), dies at 73

Abolitionist and Social Reformer William Lloyd Garrison
Abolitionist and Social Reformer
William Lloyd Garrison