What Happened on August 17?

  • US President Bill Clinton admitted to having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. (1998) President Clinton admitted, "Indeed I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong." The scandal led to impeachment charges, but President Clinton wouldn't resign. His trial started in January 1999, and he was acquitted on February 12, 1999.

  • Leo Frank, who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a 13-year-old girl in Cobb County, Georgia, was murdered by a lynch mob. (1915) Frank was initially sentenced to death for killing a 13-year-old girl named Mary Phagan, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison.

  • The first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a hot-air balloon was made. (1978) Three Americans, Larry Newman, Ben Abruzzo, and Max Anderson, made the hot-air balloon crossing from the US state of Maine to France in just six days.

  • The world's first commercial steamboat service opened for business. (1807) The world's first passenger steamboat, developed by Robert Fulton, sailed the Hudson River from New York City to Albany, New York.

  • Gold was discovered in Alaska, prompting the Klondike gold rush. (1896) Three prospectors found gold in Bonanza Creek, Yukon. To date, more than 12 million ounces (almost 350,000 kilograms) of gold have been mined from that area.

  • The last of Hitler's henchmen committed suicide. (1987) Rudolf Hess was a deputy in Hitler's Nazi party. He was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted at the Nuremberg trials. He was the only prisoner at Spandau Prison in Berlin for 21 years after everyone else had been released. On this day, Hess strangled himself with a cord. He was 93.

  • One of the first people was killed while attempting to jump over the Berlin Wall. (1962) Peter Fechter, 18, was killed by the East German border guards trying to escape to the West. Between 1961 and 1989, more than 5,000 people tried to escape; 100 to 200 were killed.

  • Colon Powell got the biggest book advance in history from Random House. (1993) Powell's book, My American Journey, earned him an advance of $6 million US Dollars — the largest advance in history at that time. His book also became the fastest-selling book in Random House's publishing history.

  • The longest-running farmers' market in the US opened. (1907) Pike Place Market opened in Seattle, Washington. It is the oldest farmers market in the US to be in continuous operation. Today, more than 10 million people shop there each year.

  • An earthquake hit Turkey, killing more than 17,000 people. (1999) The earthquake struck while people were home in bed — many died being crushed by their falling houses. All told, the earthquake caused more than $6.5 billion US Dollars in damage.

  • Hurricane Camille hit the Golf Coast, killing 248 people. (1969) Camille was a Category 5 hurricane when it hit land in the US. It is the second-strongest hurricane to hit land in US history, next to the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane. It caused $1.42 billion US Dollars (USD) in damage — the equivalent of $8.43 billion USD in 2010.

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