24 May 1626

Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.

Peter Minuit is famously known for his purchase of Manhattan Island on behalf of the Dutch in 1626.

Who was Peter Minuit?
Peter Minuit was a Walloon from the city of Wesel in present-day Germany. He was a director of the Dutch West India Company, which was responsible for the establishment of New Netherland, the Dutch colony in North America.

The Purchase:
On May 24, 1626, Peter Minuit is said to have purchased Manhattan Island from the local Native American tribe, likely the Lenape, for goods worth 60 guilders. This amount has often been described in modern terms as being equivalent to about $24 worth of beads, tools, and other trade goods, though the precise value and items remain subjects of historical debate.

The Myth vs. Reality:
The story of the purchase has entered popular culture as a somewhat legendary tale. Some historians argue that the transaction’s nature was misunderstood by both parties. The Dutch believed they had purchased the land outright, while the Native Americans likely saw the deal as an agreement to share the land or grant certain usage rights.

Impact of the Purchase:
Following the acquisition, the Dutch established New Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan, which would later become New York City when the British took control in 1664.

Historical Sources:
Much of what is known about the transaction comes from later reports and records of the Dutch West India Company, as there is no surviving documentation of the deal from the time it occurred.

35 May 1934

American bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde are ambushed by police and killed in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, commonly known as Bonnie and Clyde, were infamous American criminals who gained notoriety during the Great Depression. They led the Barrow Gang, which committed numerous crimes, including bank robberies, small store holdups, and murders from 1931 to 1934.

Bonnie Parker was born on October 1, 1910, in Rowena, Texas. She was known for being intelligent and talented in writing and poetry. Bonnie married Roy Thornton in 1926, but the marriage was short-lived, and they separated, though never formally divorced.

Clyde Barrow was born on March 24, 1909, in Ellis County, Texas. He grew up in a poor family and began his criminal career at a young age, initially committing petty thefts before escalating to more serious crimes.

Bonnie and Clyde met in Texas in January 1930 and quickly became partners in both love and crime. Clyde had already embarked on a life of crime before meeting Bonnie, but together they formed a more notorious and lethal partnership.

Bank Robberies: They primarily targeted banks, though they also robbed gas stations and small stores.
Murders: They were involved in several shootouts with law enforcement, resulting in the deaths of at least nine police officers and several civilians.
Escape Skills: They were adept at evading capture, often using stolen cars and relying on their network of safe houses and sympathizers.

Bonnie and Clyde were glamorized by the media, which portrayed them as romantic outlaws defying the establishment during a time of widespread poverty and disenfranchisement. Their exploits captured the public’s imagination, even though they were violent criminals.

The law finally caught up with Bonnie and Clyde on May 23, 1934. They were ambushed and killed by a posse of police officers led by Texas Ranger Frank Hamer near Bienville Parish, Louisiana. The couple was riddled with bullets, and their deaths marked the end of their violent escapades.
Legacy

Their legacy has been cemented in American folklore, largely due to the sensationalized media coverage of their crimes and the numerous films, books, and songs that have been inspired by their story. The most famous portrayal is the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde,” starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which brought their story to a new generation and further mythologized their lives.

22 May 1906

The Wright brothers are granted U.S. patent number 821,393 for their “Flying-Machine”.

The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, are widely credited with making the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their aircraft, the Wright Flyer, achieved a flight of 12 seconds and covered 120 feet, marking a significant milestone in aviation history.

However, there are other claims and debates about whether the Wright brothers were indeed the very first to achieve powered flight. Some notable points of contention include:

Gustave Whitehead: An aviation pioneer who some claim flew a powered aircraft in Connecticut in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers. There is ongoing debate about the validity of this claim due to limited documentation and conflicting evidence.

Alberto Santos-Dumont: A Brazilian aviation pioneer who made significant contributions to early aviation. He is often credited in Europe as being the first to achieve powered flight with his 14-bis biplane in Paris on October 23, 1906. Unlike the Wright brothers’ flight, Santos-Dumont’s flights were widely witnessed and documented.

Other Early Attempts: There were numerous other inventors and aviators experimenting with powered flight in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of these experiments achieved varying degrees of success, but they lacked the control, documentation, and sustainability of the Wright brothers’ flight.

The Wright brothers’ achievements are particularly notable for their development of three-axis control, which allowed for controlled and sustained flight, a critical advancement over previous attempts. This, combined with their rigorous documentation and subsequent flights, has cemented their place in history as the pioneers of powered flight.

21 May 1904

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is founded in Paris.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the global governing body of soccer (known as football outside the United States).

History and Formation

Founded: May 21, 1904
Headquarters: Zurich, Switzerland
Founding Members: France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
Purpose: To oversee international competition among the national associations of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Structure

President: The president is the head of FIFA and represents it publicly.
Council: The FIFA Council is an executive, strategic, and oversight body that decides on FIFA’s policies.
Congress: The FIFA Congress is the highest decision-making body, composed of representatives from each of FIFA’s member associations.

Tournaments

FIFA World Cup: The most famous tournament organized by FIFA, held every four years since 1930 (except during WWII). It is the most prestigious soccer competition in the world.
FIFA Women’s World Cup: Established in 1991, this tournament is the premier competition in women’s soccer.
FIFA Club World Cup: A competition between the champion clubs from each of the six continental confederations.

Roles and Responsibilities

Regulation: FIFA sets the rules for soccer worldwide, including the Laws of the Game.
Development: It promotes and funds development programs to spread the sport globally.
Governance: FIFA ensures the fair and smooth operation of international matches and tournaments.
Disciplinary Actions: It enforces disciplinary actions against clubs, associations, and individuals who violate the rules.

Confederations

FIFA is comprised of six continental confederations:

AFC (Asian Football Confederation): Asia
CAF (Confederation of African Football): Africa
CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football): North America, Central America, and the Caribbean
CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation): South America
OFC (Oceania Football Confederation): Oceania
UEFA (Union of European Football Associations): Europe

Controversies

Corruption: FIFA has faced numerous allegations and scandals involving corruption and bribery, particularly around World Cup bidding processes.
Transparency: Criticized for lack of transparency in its decision-making processes and financial dealings.

Development Programs

FIFA Forward Programme: Aimed at developing football infrastructure and supporting grassroots football worldwide.
Women’s Football: Initiatives to promote and develop women’s football globally.

20 May 1645

Yangzhou massacre: The ten day massacre of 800,000 residents of the city of Yangzhou, part of the Transition from Ming to Qing.

The Yangzhou Massacre was a tragic and brutal event that took place in May 1645 during the transitional period from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty in China. This massacre occurred in the city of Yangzhou, located in present-day Jiangsu province, and is remembered as one of the most horrific episodes of the Qing conquest of China.

The transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty was marked by intense military conflicts and power struggles. After the fall of Beijing to the Manchu-led Qing forces in 1644, the Ming loyalists continued to resist in southern China. Yangzhou was a strategic city held by the Southern Ming forces under the command of Shi Kefa, a loyalist official and general.

In the spring of 1645, Qing forces, commanded by Prince Dodo, besieged Yangzhou. Despite a determined defense by Shi Kefa and his troops, the city fell after ten days of intense fighting. Following the capture of Yangzhou, the Qing forces carried out a massacre as a form of retribution and terror to subdue any further resistance from the local population and other Ming loyalists.

The massacre resulted in the deaths of a large number of residents. Although historical records vary, it is estimated that tens of thousands to possibly several hundred thousand people were killed over the course of ten days. The exact number is difficult to ascertain, but it is widely accepted that the scale of violence and bloodshed was immense.

The Yangzhou Massacre had a profound psychological impact on the region and the broader Chinese populace. It served as a grim warning to other cities and regions still under Ming control about the consequences of resisting the Qing forces. The event also cemented the reputation of the Qing dynasty as being ruthless in their consolidation of power, which had lasting implications for their rule over China.

The primary historical account of the massacre comes from a diary written by Wang Xiuchu, a resident of Yangzhou who survived the massacre. His diary, “The Ten Days in Yangzhou,” provides a harrowing eyewitness account of the atrocities committed by the Qing soldiers. This document remains one of the most important sources for understanding the events and scale of the massacre.

The Yangzhou Massacre remains a somber chapter in Chinese history, symbolizing the brutality of war and the human cost of political and dynastic transitions.

19 May 1802

Napoleon Bonaparte founds the Legion of Honour.

The Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur) is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. It was established by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802.

History and Foundation: The Legion of Honour was created during the First French Republic, but its origins can be traced back to the ancient traditions of chivalry and knighthood. Napoleon founded it as a way to recognize military and civilian achievements, consolidating the various revolutionary decorations into one unified order.

Structure: The order is divided into five classes:
Chevalier (Knight): The lowest rank, given to those who have rendered outstanding service.
Officier (Officer): Awarded for notable service, typically after having been a Chevalier for at least eight years.
Commandeur (Commander): For significant contributions and long service, typically after being an Officier for at least five years.
Grand Officier (Grand Officer): For exceptional service, awarded after being a Commandeur for at least three years.
Grand-croix (Grand Cross): The highest rank, reserved for those who have achieved the most distinguished service.

Eligibility: Membership is open to French nationals and foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds. It can be awarded for a variety of achievements, including military service, scientific advancements, cultural contributions, and acts of bravery.

Insignia: The insignia of the Legion of Honour includes a five-armed “Maltese Asterisk” decorated with a wreath of oak and laurel. Each class has a different insignia, with varying sizes and degrees of embellishment.

Administration: The order is managed by the Grand Chancery (Grande Chancellerie de la Légion d’honneur), based in Paris. The President of France serves as the Grand Master of the order.

Significance: The Legion of Honour is not only a mark of personal achievement but also a symbol of the values of the French Republic, including liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Famous Recipients: Numerous notable individuals have received the Legion of Honour, including scientists like Marie Curie, writers like Victor Hugo, and international figures like Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nelson Mandela.

18 May 1863

American Civil War: The Siege of Vicksburg begins.

The Siege of Vicksburg was a pivotal military campaign during the American Civil War, taking place from May 18 to July 4, 1863. It was a decisive battle for control of the Mississippi River and is often cited as one of the turning points in the war.

Strategic Importance: Vicksburg, Mississippi, was strategically important because it sat on a high bluff overlooking a bend in the Mississippi River. Control of Vicksburg allowed for control of river traffic, which was crucial for the movement of troops and supplies.
Union Strategy: The Union, under Major General Ulysses S. Grant, aimed to split the Confederacy in two and gain control of the Mississippi River. This was part of the broader Anaconda Plan, which sought to suffocate the South by cutting off its resources.

Grant’s Maneuvers: Grant initially attempted several direct assaults and maneuvers to capture Vicksburg, but these were repelled by Confederate forces under Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton. Grant then adopted a strategy of encircling the city.
Siege Tactics: Starting on May 18, 1863, Grant began a formal siege, cutting off supplies and bombarding the city continuously. Union forces dug trenches and constructed fortifications around Vicksburg, isolating the defenders.

Civilian Hardship: The civilian population of Vicksburg suffered greatly during the siege. With food and supplies running low, residents were forced to live in caves dug into the hillsides to escape the constant bombardment.
Military Desperation: Confederate troops also faced dire conditions, with dwindling supplies and no hope of reinforcements. Disease and starvation took a heavy toll on the defenders.

Surrender: On July 4, 1863, after 47 days of siege, Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant. This victory, coupled with the Union victory at Gettysburg the previous day, marked a significant turning point in the war.
Strategic Impact: The fall of Vicksburg effectively split the Confederacy in two and gave the Union complete control of the Mississippi River. It was a major blow to Confederate morale and a significant boost for the Union war effort.

Grant’s Reputation: The successful campaign solidified Ulysses S. Grant’s reputation as one of the Union’s most capable generals, eventually leading to his appointment as General-in-Chief of all Union armies.
Commemoration: The Vicksburg National Military Park was established to preserve the battlefield and commemorate the siege. It serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made and the strategic importance of this campaign in the broader context of the Civil War.

17 May 1902

Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais discovers the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical analog computer.

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient Greek analog computer and orrery used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposes. Discovered in 1901 in the Antikythera shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera, it is believed to have been constructed around 100 BCE.

Complexity: The mechanism consists of at least 30 meshing bronze gears, and its sophistication is comparable to 18th-century clocks. This complexity indicates a high level of engineering skill and knowledge of astronomy in ancient Greece.

Functionality: It could predict the positions of the sun, moon, and possibly the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) on specific dates. It could also predict solar and lunar eclipses.

Design: The device was housed in a wooden box, with dials on the front and back. The front dial showed the zodiac and a calendar, while the back had two spirals representing the Metonic cycle (19 years) and the Saros cycle (18 years, 11 days).

Significance: The Antikythera mechanism is considered the earliest known example of a mechanical analog computer. Its discovery has significantly influenced our understanding of ancient Greek technology and their advancements in mathematics and astronomy.

The mechanism highlights the advanced technological capabilities of ancient civilizations and continues to be a subject of extensive research and fascination.

16 May 1920

In Rome, Pope Benedict XV canonizes Joan of Arc.

Joan of Arc, born in 1412 in Domrémy, France, claimed to have received visions from saints instructing her to support Charles VII and help drive the English out of France during the Hundred Years’ War. Her role in the Siege of Orléans and her influence on the subsequent coronation of Charles VII were pivotal moments in French history. However, she was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake in 1431.

Rehabilitation Trial (1456): Twenty-five years after her execution, a trial of rehabilitation, initiated by the Catholic Church and supported by Charles VII, overturned her conviction. This trial portrayed Joan as a martyr who had been unjustly executed, clearing her name and setting the stage for future sanctification.

Growing Veneration: Over the centuries, Joan’s legend grew, and she became a symbol of French nationalism and piety. Her veneration as a folk saint increased despite her not being officially recognized by the Church.

Formal Canonization Process: The formal process for her canonization began in 1903 under Pope Pius X. The process involves rigorous scrutiny of Joan’s life, her virtues, and the miracles attributed to her intercession.

Beatification (1909): Joan was beatified in 1909 by Pope Pius X after the Church officially recognized several miracles associated with her.

Canonization (1920): Joan was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict XV on May 16, 1920. Her canonization was seen as a confirmation of her faith, her nationalistic fervor being interpreted as a divine inspiration, and her martyrdom as a testament to her sanctity.

Joan of Arc’s canonization was a significant event not only for the Catholic Church but also for the French nation, embodying themes of courage, faith, and patriotism. Her life and legacy continue to inspire people around the world and she remains a popular figure in religious, historical, and cultural contexts.

15 May 1905

The city of Las Vegas is founded in Nevada, United States.

Las Vegas, known for its vibrant nightlife and sprawling casinos, has a rich and colorful history that shaped it into the entertainment capital of the world.

Las Vegas, which means “The Meadows” in Spanish, was named by Rafael Rivera in 1829. This area was a lush oasis with abundant water, which made it a vital stopover on the old Spanish trail to California. The land was part of Mexico until it became part of the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War.

In 1905, Las Vegas was officially founded as a city when 110 acres of what would later become downtown were auctioned off. The arrival of the railroad connected Las Vegas with major cities in the Pacific and the rest of the country, boosting the economy and population growth.

The legalization of gambling in 1931 was a turning point for Las Vegas. This coincided with the construction of the Hoover Dam, which brought an influx of workers to the area. The first casino on what would become the Las Vegas Strip, the El Rancho Vegas, opened in 1941. It was soon followed by other casinos and hotels, fueled by the investment from figures such as Bugsy Siegel who opened the Flamingo in 1946.

The post-World War II era marked a boom in construction and the arrival of organized crime figures, which shaped the Las Vegas image as a city run by mobsters. During the 1950s and 1960s, iconic casinos like the Sands, the Sahara, and the Tropicana were built. Entertainment became as much of a draw as the gambling, with top performers like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the Rat Pack gracing the stages.

The 1980s and 1990s saw a shift from mob control to more corporate management of casinos, heralded by figures like Steve Wynn. This period featured the development of mega-resorts like The Mirage (1989), Bellagio, and The Venetian, transforming the landscape and economy of Las Vegas once again.

In the 21st century, Las Vegas continues to evolve, with a focus on expanding the entertainment offerings beyond gambling. This includes world-class dining, shopping, and entertainment options. The city has also become a hub for business conventions and a popular destination for global tourism.

Las Vegas’ history reflects its status as a city that constantly reinvents itself, making it a unique and dynamic destination with a legacy of continual transformation.