What Happened on May 21?

  • The American Red Cross was founded. (1881) Clara Barton, a nurse known as the "Angel of the Battlefield," and Adolphus Solomons founded the organization to work in conjunction with the already-established International Red Cross.

  • The "Twinkie defense" failed. (1979) Dan White was convicted of killing George Moscone and Harvey Milk, despite his claims that depression, evidenced by his increased intake of junk food, made him do it. His defense was mockingly called the "Twinkie defense," a term that has since become a catch-all for any improbable legal defense.

  • Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris after his transatlantic flight; five years later Amelia Earhart landed in Ireland. (1927,1932) Lindbergh and Earhart were the first man and woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

  • A crazed geologist vandalized Michelangelo's Pieta. (1972) Toth attacked the statue with a geologists hammer while shouting "I am Jesus Christ — risen from the dead!" He got in 15 blows before he was stopped, and was later committed to a psychiatric hospital in lieu of being charged.

  • FIFA was founded. (1904) The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known as FIFA, was founded in Paris. It has since become famous for the FIFA tournament, a major global sports event.

  • The first speed-limit law for cars came into effect in the US. (1901) Connecticut enacted the first speed limit law in the US, limiting drivers to 12 mph (about 20 kph) in cities and 15 mph (about 25 kph) on country roads. It wasn't the first speed-limit law of any kind in the US though — as early as the 1600s, American colonies enacted speed limits on sleighs and carriages, measured by whether the animal pulling it was going at a walk, trot, canter, or gallop.

  • Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb killed Bobbie Franks (1924) Leopold and Loeb were extremely well-off teenagers who decided to kill 14-year-old Franks to see if they could commit the perfect crime. The case gained national attention, and the two teens were sentenced to life in prison.

  • Martial law was declared in Montgomery, Alabama. (1961) Riots had broken out the day before when Freedom Riders were attacked and beaten, and the Attorney General eventually had to send in more than 300 federal marshals with teargas to break up the riots.

  • The 9th Street Art Exhibition took place. (1951) The show was a gathering of artists that later became the New York School, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell. It is considered a landmark in art history.

  • Susan Lucci won the Daytime Emmy Award. (1999) Lucci won the award for All My Children after being nominated for 19 years in a row. When she finally won, the crowd gave her a several minute standing ovation, and her acceptance speech reportedly brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience.

Discussion Comments


I've heard of Charles Lindbergh before, and it's amazing to hear what he accomplished. Sure, other people surpassed his standards, but he was definitely ahead of his time.


Wow, I didn't know speeding laws originated all the way back to the 1600s, even when there were sleighs and carriages? I can picture the image in my head, and it's very amusing. Can you imagine seeing someone get a ticket for riding a horse too fast? I'm sure that must have been a rather awkward situation, ha ha.


It's interesting to know that so many of these sports events originated from such a long time ago. For example, in reference to the fifth bullet point, the FIFA tournament is a crucial sporting event that's been around for years, 1904 to be exact. Speaking of sports, does anyone know how long The Super Bowl has been around for?

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