What Happened on August 21?

  • Hawaii became the 50th state to enter the Union. (1959) US President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the order, granting Hawaii statehood. Several bills for Hawaii had been presented to the US Congress, in 1919, 1935, 1947 and 1950, but none had passed until this day in 1959.

  • The American Bar Association was founded. (1878) The association, which has more than 400,000 members today, sets ethic guidelines and academic standards for US law schools. It was founded in Saratoga, New York, but its headquarters today are in Chicago.

  • The Soviet Union an other Warsaw Pact members invade Czechoslovakia and end the Prague Spring. (1968) Slovak reformer Alexander Dubček led the Prague Spring which began on January 5th of the same year. This period of political and economic decentralization also granted its citizens more rights than they had before.

  • Philippine opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., was murdered the same day he ended his self-imposed exile in the US. (1983) Benigno was assassinated as he stepped off an airplane at the Manila airport, there years to the day after he left exile. He was returning home to run in the Philippine's next election.

  • The Mona Lisa was stolen. (1911) Vincenzo Perugia, a former employee of Louvre where the Mona Lisa hung, walked into the gallery, put the painting under his clothes and walked out, unnoticed. The painting remained missing for two years until Perugia sent a letter saying the painting would be returned for a ransom; he was captured while collecting the ransom.

  • Oldsmobile was founded. (1897) Ransom Eli Olds founded Oldsmobile, which first was called Olds Motor Works. The Oldsmobile brand was discontinued in 2004; until then, it has been the oldest continually operating auto brand in the US.

  • Nat Turner led a slave revolt in Virginia. (1831) Turner led 75 slaves on a two-day killing spree, starting with Turner's slave owner and his family. The group killed 60 white people before being taken down by the state militia. Turner was sentenced to death and executed on November 11, 1831.

  • The coup d'état attempt against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev failed. (1991) The coup only lasted three days, but is generally considered one of the initial destabilizing factors that led to the fall of the Soviet Union and the communist party.

  • The Cameroon Lake disaster killed 1,800 people. (1986) The volcanic lake erupted a cloud of lethal carbon dioxide gas that killed every living thing in a 15-mile (25-kilometer) radius.

  • The first patent for the adding machine was granted. (1888) William Seward Burroughs, an inventor and owner of the American Arithmometer Company, was awarded the patent. He also was the grandfather of well-known writer William S. Burroughs.

Discussion Comments


This was also the day (1973) when the British army was accused of murder after opening fire on a banned parade. It was a very controversial incident and the Brits remember it as "Bloody Sunday." If I remember correctly, the judge decided in favor of the army.


I can't believe that the Mona Lisa could be stolen so easily. Wasn't it as valued back then? Why weren't there more security measures?


We learned about the Cameroon Lake disaster in class today. I didn't even know where Cameroon was, but we learned that it's in West Africa. My teacher said that volcanic lake formed hundreds of years ago and has been accumulating carbon dioxide gas on the bottom levels. When the gasses become too much, they get released and people in the vicinity are poisoned from it.

Thankfully, it won't happen again because after this incident, scientists from different countries went there. They put a special pump in the lake that releases the gases periodically before it accumulates to dangerous levels. So hopefully, there won't be another disaster like this.

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