On This Day

What Happened on May 20

Important Events

  • 1498 Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrives at Calicut, India becoming the first European to reach India by sea
  • 1609 Shakespeare's Sonnets are first published in London, perhaps illicitly, by publisher Thomas Thorpe
  • 1862 US President Abraham Lincoln signs into law the Homestead Act to provide cheap land for the settlement of the American West (80 million acres by 1900)
  • 1864 Spotsylvania campaign in US Civil War ends after 10,920 killed or injured
  • 1927 At 7:40 AM, Charles Lindbergh takes off from New York to cross the Atlantic for Paris, aboard Spirit of St Louis (1st non-stop flight)
  • 1927 Saudi Arabia becomes independent of Great Britain in the Treaty of Jeddah
  • 1990 Hubble Space Telescope sends its 1st photographs from space
  • More Historical Events

May 20 in Film & TV

  • 1891 History of cinema: The first public display of Thomas Edison's prototype kinetoscope to members of the National Federation of Women's Club

May 20 in Music

  • 1983 "Every Breath You Take" single released by The Police (Billboard Song of the Year, 1983)

May 20 in Sport

  • 1900 II Summer (Modern) Olympic Games open in Paris (last 5 months)

Did You Know?

Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patent the first blue jeans with copper rivets

On May 20, 1873

Would You Believe?

The six ton chandelier of the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris falls on the crowd resulting in the death of one and the injury of many others

On May 20, 1896

Famous Weddings

  • 491 New Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus marries Ariadne, widow of previous Emperor Zeno and daughter of Leo I
  • 1756 Prime Minister of Great Britain Frederick North (24) weds heiress Anne Speke
  • 1968 "The Who" guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend (23) weds Karen Astley in England

More Weddings & Divorces