This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
August 19 is the 231st day of the year (232nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 134 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1909, the first race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, now the home of the world’s most famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500.
The rectangular two-and-a-half-mile track linked four turns, each exactly 440 yards from start to finish, by two long and two short straight sections. In that first five-mile race on August 19, 1909, 12,000 spectators watched Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer win with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. The track’s surface of crushed rock and tar proved a disaster, breaking up in a number of places and causing the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators.
The surface was soon replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks, laid in a bed of sand and fixed with mortar. Dubbed “The Brickyard,” the speedway reopened in December 1909. In 1911, low attendance led the track’s owners to make a crucial decision: Instead of shorter races, they resolved to focus on a single, longer event each year, for a much larger prize. That May 30 marked the debut of the Indy 500–a grueling 500-mile race that was an immediate hit with audiences and drew press attention from all over the country. Driver Ray Haroun won the purse of $14,250, with an average speed of 74.59 mph and a total time of 6 hours and 42 minutes.
43 BC – Octavian, later known as Augustus, compels the Roman Senate to elect him Consul.
1561 – An 18-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots, returns to Scotland after spending 13 years in France.
1612 – The “Samlesbury witches”, three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, England, are put on trial, accused for practising witchcraft, one of the most famous witch trials in English history.
1666 – Second Anglo-Dutch War: Rear Admiral Robert Holmes leads a raid on the Dutch island of Terschelling, destroying 150 merchant ships, an act later known as “Holmes’s Bonfire”.
1692 – Salem witch trials: in Salem, Massachusetts, Province of Massachusetts Bay five people, one woman and four men, including a clergyman, are executed after being convicted of witchcraft.
1745 – Prince Charles Edward Stuart raises his standard in Glenfinnan – the start of the Second Jacobite Rebellion, known as “the 45”.
1782 – American Revolutionary War: Battle of Blue Licks – the last major engagement of the war, almost ten months after the surrender of the British commander Lord Cornwallis following the Siege of Yorktown.
1812 – War of 1812: American frigate USS Constitution defeats the British frigate HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada earning her nickname “Old Ironsides”.
1839 – Presentation of Jacque Daguerre’s new photographic process to the French Academy of Sciences.
1848 – California Gold Rush: the New York Herald breaks the news to the East Coast of the United States of the gold rush in California (although the rush started in January).
1862 – Indian Wars: during an uprising in Minnesota, Lakota warriors decide not to attack heavily-defended Fort Ridgely and instead turn to the settlement of New Ulm, killing white settlers along the way.
1895 – American frontier murderer and outlaw, John Wesley Hardin, is killed by an off-duty policeman in a saloon in El Paso, Texas.
1919 – Afghanistan gains full independence from the United Kingdom.
1934 – The first All-American Soap Box Derby is held in Dayton, Ohio.
1934 – The creation of the position Führer is approved by the German electorate with 89.9% of the popular vote.
1940 – First flight of the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber.
1942 – World War II: Operation Jubilee – the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division leads an amphibious assault by allied forces on Dieppe, France and fails, many Canadians are killed or captured. The operation was doomed to fail, and was intended to develop and try new amphibious landing tactics for the coming full invasion in Normandy.
1944 – World War II: Liberation of Paris – Paris rises against German occupation with the help of Allied troops.
1945 – Vietnam War: Viet Minh led by Ho Chi Minh take power in Hanoi, Vietnam.
1953 – Cold War: the CIA helps to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and reinstate the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
1960 – Cold War: in Moscow, downed American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers is sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Soviet Union for espionage.
1960 – Sputnik program: Sputnik 5 – the Soviet Union launches the satellite with the dogs Belka and Strelka, 40 mice, 2 rats and a variety of plants.
1965 – Japanese prime minister Eisaku Sato becomes the first post-World War II sitting prime minister to visit Okinawa.
1981 – Gulf of Sidra Incident: United States fighters intercept and shoot down two Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets over the Gulf of Sidra.
1989 – Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski nominates Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to be the first non-communist Prime Minister in 42 years.
1989 – Raid on offshore pirate station, Radio Caroline in North Sea by British and Dutch governments.
1989 – Several hundred East Germans cross the frontier between Hungary and Austria during the Pan-European Picnic, part of the events which began the process of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
1990 – Leonard Bernstein conducts his final concert, ending with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
1991 – Collapse of the Soviet Union, August Coup: Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest while on holiday in the town of Foros, Crimea.
1999 – In Belgrade, tens of thousands of Serbians rally to demand the resignation of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic.
2002 – A Russian Mi-26 helicopter carrying troops is hit by a Chechen missile outside of Grozny, killing 118 soldiers.
2003 – A car-bomb attack on United Nations headquarters in Iraq kills the agency’s top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 other employees.
2005 – The first-ever joint military exercise between Russia and China, called Peace Mission 2005 begins.
2009 – A series of bombings in Baghdad, Iraq, kills 101 and injures 565 others.