Feb 20 2011

On This Day in History February 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 20 is the 51st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 314 days remaining until the end of the year (315 in leap years).

On this day in 1792, President George Washington signs legislation renewing the United States Post Office as a cabinet department led by the postmaster general, guaranteeing inexpensive delivery of all newspapers, stipulating the right to privacy and granting Congress the ability to expand postal service to new areas of the nation.


William Goddard, a Patriot printer frustrated that the royal postal service was unable to reliably deliver his Pennsylvania Chronicle to its readers or deliver critical news for the paper to Goddard, laid out a plan for the “Constitutional Post” before the Continental Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act on the plan until after the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Benjamin Franklin promoted Goddard’s plan and served as the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress beginning on July 26, 1775, nearly one year before the Congress declared independence from the British Crown. Franklin’s son-in-law, Richard Bache, took over the position on November 7, 1776, when Franklin became an American emissary to France.

Franklin had already made a significant contribution to the postal service in the colonies while serving as the postmaster of Philadelphia from 1737 and as joint postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774, when he was fired for opening and publishing Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson‘s correspondence. While postmaster, Franklin streamlined postal delivery with properly surveyed and marked routes from Maine to Florida (the origins of Route 1), instituted overnight postal travel between the critical cities of New York and Philadelphia and created a standardized rate chart based upon weight and distance. [3]

Samuel Osgood held the postmaster general’s position in New York City from 1789, when the U.S. Constitution came into effect, until the government moved to Philadelphia in 1791. Timothy Pickering took over and, about a year later, the Postal Service Act gave his post greater legislative legitimacy and more effective organization. Pickering continued in the position until 1795, when he briefly served as secretary of war, before becoming the third U.S. secretary of state. The postmaster general’s position was considered a plum patronage post for political allies of the president until the Postal Service was transformed into a corporation run by a board of governors in 1971 following passage of the Postal Reorganization Act.

 1472 – Orkney and Shetland are pawned by Norway to Scotland in lieu of a dowry for Margaret of Denmark.

1547 – Edward VI of England is crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey.

1685 – Rene-Robert Cavelier establishes Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay thus forming the basis for France’s claim to Texas.

1792 – The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department, is signed by President George Washington.

1798 – Louis Alexandre Berthier removes Pope Pius VI from power.

1810 – Andreas Hofer, Tirolean patriot and leader of rebellion against Napoleon’s forces, is executed.

1813 – Manuel Belgrano defeats the royalist army of Pio de Tristan during the Battle of Salta.

1835 – Concepcion, Chile is destroyed by an earthquake.

1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Olustee occurs – the largest battle fought in Florida during the war.

1872 – In New York City the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens.

1873 – The University of California opens its first medical school in San Francisco, California.

1901 – The legislature of Hawaii Territory convenes for the first time.

1909 – Publication of the Futurist Manifesto in the French journal Le Figaro.

1913 – King O’Malley drives in the first survey peg to mark commencement of work on the construction of Canberra.

1931 – The Congress of the United States approves the construction of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.

1933 – The Congress of the United States proposes the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution that will end Prohibition in the United States.

1935 – Caroline Mikkelsen becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica.

1942 – Lieutenant Edward O’Hare becomes America’s first World War II flying ace.

1943 – American movie studio executives agree to allow the Office of War Information to censor movies.

1943 – The Paricutin volcano begins to form in Paricutin, Mexico.

1943 – The Saturday Evening Post publishes the first of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms in support of United States President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address theme of Four Freedoms.

1944 – World War II: The “Big Week” began with American bomber raids on German aircraft manufacturing centers.

1944 – World War II: The United States takes Eniwetok Island.

1952 – Emmett Ashford becomes the first African-American umpire in organized baseball by being authorized to be a substitute umpire in the Southwestern International League.

1959 – The Avro Arrow program to design and manufacture supersonic jet fighters in Canada is cancelled by the Diefenbaker government amid much political debate.

1962 – Mercury program: While aboard Friendship 7, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in 4 hours, 55 minutes.

1965 – Ranger 8 crashes into the moon after a successful mission of photographing possible landing sites for the Apollo program astronauts.

1976 – The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization disbands.

1987 – Unabomber: In Salt Lake City, a bomb explodes in a computer store.

1989 – An IRA bomb destroys a section of a British Army barracks in Ternhill, England

1991 – A gigantic statue of Albania’s long-time leader, Enver Hoxha, is brought down in the Albanian capital Tirana, by mobs of angry protesters.

1992 – Premier League Founded.

1998 – American figure skater Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest gold-medalist at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

2003 – During a Great White concert in West Warwick, Rhode Island, a pyrotechnics display sets the club ablaze, killing 100 and injuring over 200 others.

2005 – Spain becomes the first country to vote in a referendum on ratification of the proposed Constitution of the European Union, passing it by a substantial margin, but on a low turnout.

2009 – Two Tamil Tigers aircraft packed with C4 explosives en-route to the national airforce headquarters were shot down by the Sri Lankan military before reaching their target, in a kamikaze style attack.

2010 – In Madeira Island, Portugal, heavy rain causes floods and mudslides, leaving at least 43 deaths in the worst disaster on the history of the archipelago.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day

         o Eleutherius of Tournai

         o Wulfric of Haselbury

         o February 20 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * World Day of Social Justice (International)

1 comment

  1. TMC

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