On This Day

Historical Events on March 20

  • 141 6th recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet

Historic DiscoveryBlack Death

1345 Saturn, Jupiter and Mars-conjunction: thought "cause of plague epidemic"

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Medieval painting from 1353 showing the citizens of Tournai (today in Belgium) burying victims of the Black Death
Medieval painting from 1353 showing the citizens of Tournai (today in Belgium) burying victims of the Black Death
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  • 1525 Paris' parliament begins pursuit of Protestants
  • 1569 Duke of Alva leads "tenth penning" in Les Ponts de Cé

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1598 Governor of Brittany, Philippe Emmanuel the Duke of Mercœur submits to French King Henry IV at Angers

  • 1600 The Linköping Bloodbath takes place on Maundy Thursday in Linköping, Sweden
  • 1602 United Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) forms

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1616 Walter Raleigh released from Tower of London to seek gold in Guyana

Explorer Walter Raleigh
Walter Raleigh
  • 1627 France & Spain sign accord for fighting protestantism

AppointmentAppointment of Interest

1664 Scientist Robert Hooke is appointed Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London

Scientist Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
  • 1697 Willem de Vlamingh returns to Batavia after exploring "South Land"
  • 1703 Akō incident: 46 of the 47 surviving Ronin commit seppuku (ritual suicide) as recompense for avenging their master's death in Edo
  • 1739 Iranian ruler Nadir Shah occupies Delhi in India and sacks the city, stealing the jewels of the Peacock Throne
  • 1760 Great Fire of Boston destroys 349 buildings
  • 1774 The British parliament passes first of the Intolerable Acts: the Boston Port Act, which closed Boston harbor until colonists would pay for damages following the Boston Tea Party
  • 1800 French army defeats Turks at Helipolis & advance to Cairo

InventionScientific Discovery

1800 Alessandro Volta reports his discovery of the electric battery in a letter to Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society of London

Physicist and Inventor Alessandro Volta
Physicist and Inventor
Alessandro Volta
Botanist and explorer Joseph Banks
Botanist and explorer
Joseph Banks
  • 1813 Lady Hester Stanhope sets out for ancient city of Palmyra, the first western woman to visit
  • 1814 Prince Willem Frederik becomes monarch of Netherlands

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1815 Napoleon enters Paris after escape from Elba, begins 100-day rule

French Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte
French Emperor
Napoléon Bonaparte
  • 1816 US Supreme Court affirms its right to review state court decisions
  • 1833 US & Siam sign commercial treaty

Book releaseHistoric Publication

1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" published in Boston

Abolitionist and Author Harriet Beecher Stowe
Abolitionist and Author
Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • 1861 An earthquake completely destroys Mendoza, Argentina
  • 1865 2nd day of Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina
  • 1865 Michigan authorizes workers' cooperatives

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1868 Jesse James Gang robs a bank in Russellville, Kentucky, of $14,000

Outlaw Jesse James
Jesse James
  • 1883 Unity treaty of Paris signed: protects industrial property
  • 1885 Jan Ernst Matzeliger received patent number 274,207 for his lasting machine which creates wood or stone molds of customers' feet
  • 1885 Yiddish theater opens in NY with Goldfaden operetta
  • 1886 1st AC power plant in US begins commercial operation in Massachusetts
  • 1888 The premiere of the very first Romani language operetta staged in Moscow, Russia.
  • 1890 General Federation of Women's Clubs founded in the United States
  • 1891 53rd Grand National: Irish jockey, trainer Harry Beasley wins aboard 4/1 Come Away
  • 1892 54th Grand National: Capt. Roddy Owen wins aboard 20/1 chance Father O'Flynn
  • 1896 Marines land in Nicaragua to protect US citizens

  • 1896 Uprising in Matabeleland
  • 1897 1st US orthodox Jewish Rabbinical seminary (RIETS) incorporates in NY

AgreementTreaty of Interest

1897 France signs treaty with Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia

Emperor of Ethiopia Menelik II
Emperor of Ethiopia
Menelik II
  • 1900 US Secretary of State John Hay announces that all nations to whom he sent notes calling for an 'open door' policy in China have essentially accepted his stand
  • 1902 France and Russia issue a joint declaration that approves the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, but stipulates that they have the right to protect interests in China and Korea

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1906 George Bernard Shaw's "Captain Brassbound's Conversion" premieres in London

  • 1911 National Squash Tennis Association forms (NYC)
  • 1911 Winter Garden Theater opens at 1634 Broadway NYC
  • 1914 1st international figure-skating tournament held in US, New Haven
  • 1916 Allies attack Zeebrugge Belgium

Conference meetingMeeting of Interest

1917 After the sinking of 3 more American merchant ships, US President Woodrow Wilson meets with cabinet, who agree that war is inevitable

28th US President Woodrow Wilson
28th US President
Woodrow Wilson
  • 1920 1st flight from London to South Africa lands (took 1½ months)
  • 1920 US Ladies' Figure Skating championship won by Theresa Weld
  • 1920 US Men's Figure Skating championship won by Sherwin Badger
  • 1920 Australasian Championships Men's Tennis, Adelaide: Pat O'Hara Wood beats fellow Australian Ronald Thomas 6-3, 4-6, 6-8, 6-1, 6-3
  • 1921 Upper Silesia votes for amalgamation with Germany in a plebiscite that is 63% in favor
  • 1922 USS Langley is commissioned, US Navy's 1st aircraft carrier
  • 1922 WIP-AM in Philadelphia PA begins radio transmissions
  • 1923 Bavarian minister of interior refuses to forbid Nazi Sturm Abteilung
  • 1923 Belgian Senate rejects Dutch University in Ghent
  • 1924 Finnair begins scheduled flight of Helsinki-Tallinn
  • 1930 Clessie Cummins sets diesel engine speed record of 129.39 kph

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1930 American fast food restaurant chain "KFC" [Kentucky Fried Chicken] is founded by Colonel Harland Sanders in North Corbin, Kentucky

Businessman and Restaurateur Colonel Sanders
Businessman and Restaurateur
Colonel Sanders
  • 1931 Bishop Schreiber warns against national-socialism in Berlin
  • 1932 Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Region in RSFSR becomes Kara-Kalpak ASSR
  • 1933 Dachau the first Nazi concentration camp, is completed
  • 1934 Rudolf Kuhnold demonstrates radar in Kiel Germany
  • 1934 American all-round female super athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias pitches a hitless inning for Philadelphia A's in their exhibition pre-season baseball game against Brooklyn Dodgers

BattleBattle of Interest

1937 Franco offensive at Guadalajara, Spain

Spanish Dictator and General Francisco Franco
Spanish Dictator and General
Francisco Franco
  • 1937 England beats Scotland, 6-3 at Murrayfield, Edinburgh to clinch the Home Nations Rugby Championship and Triple Crown
  • 1939 7,000 Jews flee German occupied Memel Lithuania
  • 1940 Paul Reynoud becomes French premier
  • 1941 Nazi-German Yugoslav pact drawn
  • 1942 Convoy PQ13 departs Reykjavik Iceland to Russia

Philippine Revolution'I Shall Return'

1942 General Douglas MacArthur vows "I came through and I shall return" after escaping Japanese-occupied Philippines

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A statue in the Philippines commemorating the promised return of American commander Douglas MacArthur in World War II
A statue in the Philippines commemorating the promised return of American commander Douglas MacArthur in World War II
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  • 1942 Major German assault on Malta
  • 1943 German U-384 bombed & sinks
  • 1944 2,500 women trample guards and floorwalkers to purchase 1,500 alarm clocks announced for sale in a Chicago Illinois department store
  • 1944 Bus falls off bridge into Passaic River NJ, killing 16
  • 1945 US 70th Infantry Division captures Saarbrucken, immediately prior the invasion of Germany by the western Allies
  • 1947 180 tonne blue whale (record) caught in South Atlantic
  • 1948 1st live televised musical Eugene Ormandy on CBS followed in 90

Film tv awardsAcademy Awards

1948 20th Academy Awards: "Gentleman's Agreement", Loretta Young, Ronald Colman win

  • 1948 102nd Grand National: 50/1 chance Sheila's Cottage first mare to win the GN for 46 years; ridden by Irish jockey Arthur Thompson
  • 1949 LPGA Titleholders Championship Women's Golf, Augusta CC: Amateur Peggy Kirk wins her only major title by 2 strokes from Patty Berg and Dorothy Kirby
  • 1951 Indonesian army offensive against Darul Islam on Java
  • 1951 Fujiyoshida, a city located in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, in the center of the Japanese main island of Honshū is founded

Film tv awardsAcademy Awards

1952 24th Academy Awards: "An American in Paris", Humphrey Bogart & Vivian Leigh win

  • 1952 Final ratification of peace treaty restoring sovereignty to Japan by US Senate
  • 1954 "King & I" closes at St James Theater NYC after 1246 performances
  • 1954 16th NCAA Men's Basketball Championship: La Salle beats Bradley, 92-76; Explorers' small forward Tom Gola is named tournament Most Outstanding Player
  • 1954 1st newspaper vending machine used (Columbia Pennsylvania)
  • 1955 KXTV TV channel 10 in Sacramento, CA (CBS) begins broadcasting
  • 1956 E Ochab succeeds Beirut as 1st secretary of Polish CP
  • 1956 Mount Bezymianny on Kamchatka Peninsula (USSR) explodes

  • 1956 Tunisia gains independence from France
  • 1956 USSR performs nuclear test
  • 1956 Union workers ended a 156-day strike at Westinghouse Electric Corp
  • 1957 Britain accepts NATO offer to mediate in Cyprus, but Greece rejects it
  • 1958 50" snow across the Mason-Dixon line
  • 1958 Clandestine Burasi Bizim Radio (communist) begins transmitting
  • 1958 Greek Clandestine Radio (communist), Voice of Truth 1st transmission
  • 1962 Sjoukje Dijkstra becomes world champion figure skater
  • 1963 1st "Pop Art" exhibition (NYC)
  • 1964 ESRO established, European Space Research Organization
  • 1965 27th NCAA Men's Basketball Championship: UCLA beats Michigan, 91-80; Bruins' back-to-back National titles; Gail Goodrich 42 points
  • 1965 Venkataraghavan takes 8-72 v NZ at Delhi

Book releaseHistoric Publication

1965 Civil and Women's Rights Activist Dorothy Height has her first column published in the weekly African-American newspaper called the "New York Amsterdam News"

Women's and Civil Rights Activist Dorothy Height
Women's and Civil Rights Activist
Dorothy Height
  • 1965 10th Eurovision Song Contest: France Gall of Luxembourg wins singing "Poupee de cire, poupee de son" written by Serge Gainsbourg in Naples
  • 1965 Wales misses out on a 4th Grand Slam after losing to France, 22-13 at Stade Colombes, Paris despite winning the Five Nations Rugby Championship

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1967 The Supremes release "The Happening"

Singer and Actress Diana Ross
Singer and Actress
Diana Ross
  • 1967 WOET (now WPTD) TV channel 16 in Dayton, OH (PBS) begins broadcasting

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1968 LBJ signs a bill removing gold backing from US paper money

36th US President Lyndon B. Johnson
36th US President
Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 1968 Military intervene in South-Yemen (leftist ministers resign)

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1969 Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila is paralysed in an auto-accident near Addis Ababa

Marathon Runner Abebe Bikila
Marathon Runner
Abebe Bikila
  • 1971 Boston Bruins win 13th straight NHL game
  • 1971 Northern Ireland Prime Minister James Chichester-Clark resigns in protest at what he views as a limited security response by the British government
  • 1972 19 mountain climbers killed on Japan's Mount Fuji during an avalanche
  • 1972 S Mansholt succeeds Malfatti as chairman of European Committee
  • 1972 Donegall Street bombing: the Provisional Irish Republican Army detonate its first car bomb on Donegall Street in Belfast; four civilians, two RUC officers and a UDR soldier killed while 148 people were wounded

Hall of fameHall of Fame

1973 Roberto Clemente elected to Hall of Fame, 11 weeks after his death in a plane crash

Baseball Player Roberto Clemente
Baseball Player
Roberto Clemente
  • 1973 NBC TV premiere of pilot episode of "Police Story", based on Los Angeles Police Dept. Joseph Wambaugh's writings
  • 1974 "The Super Cops" directed by Gordon Parks premieres in NYC, New York
  • 1976 Jevgeni Kulikov skates world record 1000m (1:15.70)
  • 1976 Patricia Hearst convicted of armed robbery

  • 1977 Communists and socialists win French municipal elections

Electoral defeatElection of Interest

1977 Parisians elect former PM Jacques Chirac as 1st mayor in a century

President of France Jacques Chirac
President of France
Jacques Chirac

Electoral defeatElection of Interest

1977 Premier Indira Gandhi loses election in India

4th Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi
4th Prime Minister of India
Indira Gandhi
  • 1977 PGA Tournament Players Championship, Sawgrass CC: Mark Hayes wins in windy conditions, 2 strokes ahead of runner-up Mike McCullough
  • 1978 Flyers' Rick MacLeash scores on 6th penalty shot against Islanders
  • 1980 The Mi Amigo ship containing England's pirate radio Caroline sinks
  • 1980 US appeals to International Court on hostages in Iran
  • 1981 Argentine ex-president Isabel Peron sentenced to 8 years
  • 1981 Jean Harris sentenced 15-to-life for slaying of Scarsdale Diet Dr
  • 1982 1st-class debut of Richie Richardson, Leeward Is v Barbados
  • 1982 France performs nuclear test
  • 1982 Joan Jett & Blackhearts' "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" goes #1 for 7 weeks
  • 1982 Rev A Treurnicht forms Conservative Party of South Africa
  • 1982 France beats Ireland, 22-9 at the Parc des Princes, Paris but the Irish take the Five Nations Rugby Championship with a 3-1 record and also their 5th Triple Crown

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1983 In a clash of tennis legends, Martina Navratilova outclasses Chris Evert Lloyd 6-2, 6-0 to win her first of 5 straight WTA Tour Championships at Madison Square Garden, NYC

Tennis Player Martina Navratilova
Tennis Player
Martina Navratilova
Tennis Legend Chris Evert
Tennis Legend
Chris Evert
  • 1984 Andy Kaufman & Fred Blassie's "My Breakfast With Blassie" premieres
  • 1984 Senate rejects amendment to permit spoken prayer in public schools
  • 1984 Nigerian Major-General Babatunde Idiagbon launches a campaign on ‘National Consciousness and Enlightenment’
  • 1985 Libby Riddles is 1st woman to win Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race
  • 1986 228 KPH gust of wind strikes Cairngorm (UK record)
  • 1986 Jacques Chirac forms French government
  • 1986 New York City passes its first lesbian and gay rights legislation
  • 1987 FDA approves sale of AZT (AIDS treatment)
  • 1987 NASA launches Palapa B2P
  • 1987 Soap opera "Capitol" final episode
  • 1987 Soviet filmmakers arrive in Hollywood for an entertainment summit
  • 1987 Yvonne van Gennip skates ladies' world record 5 km (7:20.36)
  • 1988 David Henry Hwang's "M. Butterfly," premieres in NYC

Sport defeatBoxing Title Fight

1988 Defending champion Mike Tyson beats Tony Tubbs by TKO in round 2 at the Tokyo Dome, Tokyo for the undisputed world heavyweight boxing title

Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mike Tyson
Heavyweight Boxing Champion
Mike Tyson
  • 1988 Eritrean War of Independence: Having defeated the Nadew Command, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front enters the town of Afabet, victoriously concluding the Battle of Afabet.

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1989 Baseball announces Reds manager Pete Rose is under investigation

MLB Player and Manager Pete Rose
MLB Player and Manager
Pete Rose
  • 1989 Richard J Kerr replaces Robert M Gates as deputy director of CIA

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1990 LA Lakers retires Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's #33

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1990 Singer Gloria Estefan fractures her spine when a truck hits her tour bus near Scranton, Pennsylvania

  • 1991 Court awards Peggy Lee $3 million in suit against Disney

Event of interestEvent of Interest

1991 Michael Jackson signs $65M 6 album deal with Sony records

King of Pop Michael Jackson
King of Pop
Michael Jackson
  • 1991 Supreme Court rules unanimously employers can't exclude women from jobs where exposure to toxic chemicals could potentially damage fetus
  • 1991 US forgives $2 billion in loans to Poland
  • 1992 Janice Pennington is awarded $1.3M for accident on Price is Right set

A First Lady Goes ShopliftingA First Lady Goes Shoplifting

1992 Manuel Noriega's wife Felicidad arrested for stealing buttons from dresses

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Manuel Noriega's mug shot in 1990
Manuel Noriega's mug shot in 1990
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  • 1993 Dan Jansen skates world record 500m (36.02 sec)
  • 1993 IRA-bomb kills 3 year old in Warrington, England
  • 1993 France beats Wales, 26-10 at Parc des Princes, Paris for it's 10th outright Five Nations Rugby Championship
  • 1994 "Cyrano - The Musical" closes at Neil Simon NYC after 137 performances
  • 1994 "Flowering Peach" opens at Lyceum Theater NYC for 41 performances
  • 1994 "No Man's Land" closes at Criterion Theater NYC after 61 performances
  • 1994 14th Golden Raspberry Awards: "Indecent Proposal" wins
  • 1994 WrestleMania X, Madison Square Garden, NYC: Bret Hart beats Yokozuna to win WWF Championship
  • 1994 El Salvador's 1st presidential election following 12-year-old civil war
  • 1994 Mashonaland U-24 beat Matabeleland on 1st inning to win Logan Cup
  • 1994 Zulu-king Goodwill Zwelithini founds realm in South Africa
  • 1995 Dow-Jones hits record 4083.68
  • 1995 Members of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo release sarin gas on three lines of the Tokyo subway, killing 13 people and injuring over 1,000

Music releaseMusic Single

1995 Beatles song, "Baby It's You", with late John Lennon as lead singer, released, 1st Fab Four single in nearly 10 years

Musician and Beatle John Lennon
Musician and Beatle
John Lennon
  • 1996 "Love Thy Neighbor" opens at Booth Theater NYC
  • 1996 Erik & Lyle Menendez found guilty of killing their parents
  • 1996 UK admits humans can catch CJD (Mad Cow Disease)
  • 1997 "Play On!" opens at Brooks Atkinson Theater NYC for 61 performances
  • 1997 Liggett admits cigarettes are addictive
  • 1997 World Mens Figure Skating Championship in Lausanne won by Elvis Stojko of Canada

  • 1999 Legoland, California, the first Legoland outside of Europe, opens in Carlsbad, California
  • 1999 19th Golden Raspberry Awards: An Alan Smithee Film "Burn Hollywood Burn" wins
  • 2000 Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, a former Black Panther once known as H. Rap Brown, is captured after a gun battle that leaves a Georgia sheriff's deputy dead

BeatificationPapal Visit

2000 Pope John Paul II visits Holy Land - Jordan, Israel, Palestine

264th Pope John Paul II
264th Pope
John Paul II
  • 2001 Petrobras 36 Oil Platform, the world's largest oil rig, sinks with 400,000 US gallons of fuel and crude oil aboard, after suffering three explosions on March 15

Music awardsMusic Awards

2002 16th Soul Train Music Awards: The O'Jays, Dr. Dre & Alicia Keys wins

Singer-Songwriter Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys
Rapper and Record Producer Dr. Dre
Rapper and Record Producer
Dr. Dre

IraqInvasion of Iraq

2003 A US-led coalition launches a ground invasion of Iraq after an ultimatum for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq expires

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US troops in a sandstorm during the invasion of Iraq in 2003
US troops in a sandstorm during the invasion of Iraq in 2003
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Event of interestEvent of Interest

2004 Stephen Harper wins the leadership of the newly created Conservative Party of Canada, becoming the party's first leader.

22nd Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper
22nd Prime Minister of Canada
Stephen Harper

Music awardsMusic Awards

2004 18th Soul Train Music Awards: R. Kelly, Janet Jackson, Outkast & Beyoncé win

R&B Singer R. Kelly
R&B Singer
R. Kelly
Singer Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson
Singer Beyoncé Knowles
Beyoncé Knowles
  • 2005 A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hits Fukuoka, Japan, its first major quake in over 100 years. One person is killed, hundreds are injured and evacuated.
  • 2006 Cyclone Larry makes landfall in eastern Australia, destroying most of the country's banana crop.
  • 2006 Over 150 Chadian soldiers are killed in eastern Chad by members of the rebel UFDC. The rebel movement sought to overthrow Chadian president Idriss Deby.
  • 2010 56th National Film Awards (India): "Antaheen" wins the Golden Lotus
  • 2010 France edges England, 12-10 at Stade de France, Saint Denis to complete a Grand Slam and win the Six Nations Rugby Championship; France's 17th title
  • 2012 50 people are killed and 240 injured in a wave of terror attacks across 10 cities in Iraq
  • 2012 Disney movie John Carter records one of the largest losses in cinema history with a $200 million dollar write down
  • 2013 Pierre Deligne wins the 2013 Abel Prize in mathematics
  • 2013 First Breakthrough Prizes, world's most generous science prize worth $3 million, awarded in Mathematics, Life Sciences and Physics established by Julia and Yuri Milner

CubaObama Family Visit Cuba

2016 Barack Obama becomes the first US President to visit Cuba since 1928, arriving for a 3 day tour

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Barack and Michelle Obama walk through the rainy streets of Havana, Cuba
Barack and Michelle Obama walk through the rainy streets of Havana, Cuba
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