May 10 2011

On This Day in History May 10

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.

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May 10 is the 130th day of the year (131st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 235 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah, and drive a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in U.S. history. No longer would western-bound travelers need to take the long and dangerous journey by wagon train, and the West would surely lose some of its wild charm with the new connection to the civilized East.

Since at least 1832, both Eastern and frontier statesmen realized a need to connect the two coasts. It was not until 1853, though, that Congress appropriated funds to survey several routes for the transcontinental railroad. The actual building of the railroad would have to wait even longer, as North-South tensions prevented Congress from reaching an agreement on where the line would begin.


The Union Pacific laid 1,087 miles (1,749 km) of track, starting in Council Bluffs, and continuing across the Missouri River and through Nebraska (Elkhorn, now Omaha, Grand Island, North Platte, Ogallala, Sidney, Nebraska), the Colorado Territory (Julesburg), the Wyoming Territory (Cheyenne, Laramie, Green River, Evanston), the Utah Territory (Ogden, Brigham City, Corinne), and connecting with the Central Pacific at Promontory Summit. The route did not pass through the two biggest cities in the Great American Desert — Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. Feeder lines were built to service the two cities.

The Central Pacific laid 690 miles (1,100 km) of track, starting in Sacramento, California, and continuing over the Sierra Nevada mountains into Nevada. It passed through Newcastle, California and Truckee, California, Reno, Nevada, Wadsworth, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko, and Wells, Nevada, before connecting with the Union Pacific line at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory. Later, the western part of the route was extended to the Alameda Terminal in Alameda, California, and shortly thereafter, to the Oakland Long Wharf at Oakland Point in Oakland, California. When the eastern end of the CPRR was extended to Ogden, it ended the short period of a boom town for Promontory. Before the CPRR was completed, developers were building other railroads in Nevada and California to connect to it.

At first, the Union Pacific was not directly connected to the Eastern U.S. rail network. Instead, trains had to be ferried across the Missouri River. In 1873, the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge opened and directly connected the East and West.

Modern-day Interstate 80 closely follows the path of the railroad, with one exception. Between Echo, Utah and Wells, Nevada, Interstate 80 passes through the larger Salt Lake City and passes along the south shore of the Great Salt Lake. The Railroad had blasted and tunneled its way down the Weber River canyon to Ogden and around the north shore of the Great Salt Lake (roughly paralleling modern Interstate 84 and State Route 30). While routing the railroad along the Weber River, Mormon workers signed the Thousand Mile Tree, to commemorate the milestone. A historic marker has been placed there. The portion of the railroad around the north shore of the lake is no longer intact. In 1904, the Lucin Cutoff, a causeway across the center of the Great Salt Lake, shortened the route by approximately 43 miles (69 km), traversing Promontory Point instead of Promontory Summit.

 70 – Siege of Jerusalem: Titus, son of emperor Vespasian, opens a full-scale assault on Jerusalem and attacks the city’s Third Wall to the northwest.

1291 – Scottish nobles recognize the authority of Edward I of England.

1497 – Amerigo Vespucci allegedly leaves Cadiz for his first voyage to the New World.

1503 – Christopher Columbus visits the Cayman Islands and names them Las Tortugas after the numerous turtles there.

1534 – Jacques Cartier visits Newfoundland

1655 – England, with troops under the command of Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables, annexes Jamaica from Spain.

1768 – John Wilkes is imprisoned for writing an article for The North Briton severely criticizing King George III. This action provokes rioting in London.

1774 – Louis XVI becomes King of France.

1775 – American Revolutionary War: Fort Ticonderoga is captured by a small Colonial militia led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold.

1775 – American Revolutionary War: Representatives from the Thirteen Colonies begin the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

1796 – First Coalition: Napoleon I of France wins a decisive victory against Austrian forces at Lodi bridge over the Adda River in Italy. The Austrians lose some 2,000 men.

1801 – First Barbary War: The Barbary pirates of Tripoli declare war on the United States of America.

1824 – The National Gallery in London opens to the public.

1833 – The desecration of the grave of the viceroy of southern Vietnam Le Van Duyet by Emperor Minh Mang provokes his adopted son to start a revolt.

1837 – Panic of 1837: New York City banks fail, and unemployment reaches record levels.

1849 – Astor Place Riot: A riot breaks out at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan, New York City over a dispute between actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready, killing at least 25 and injuring over 120.

1857 – Indian Mutiny: In India, the first war of Independence begins. Sepoys revolt against their commanding officers at Meerut.

1863 – American Civil War: Confederate General Stonewall Jackson dies eight days after he is accidentally shot by his own troops.

1864 – American Civil War: Colonel Emory Upton leads a 10-regiment “Attack-in-depth” assault against the Confederate works at The Battle of Spotsylvania, which, though ultimately unsuccessful, would provide the idea for the massive assault against the Bloody Angle on May 12. Upton is slightly wounded but is immediately promoted to Brigadier general.

1865 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.

1865 – American Civil War: In Kentucky, Union soldiers ambush and mortally wound Confederate raider William Quantrill, who lingers until his death on June 6.

1869 – The First Transcontinental Railroad, linking the eastern and western United States, is completed at Promontory Summit, Utah (not Promontory Point, Utah) with the golden spike.

1872 – Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman nominated for President of the United States.

1877 – Romania declares itself independent from the Ottoman Empire following the Senate adoption of Mihail Kogalniceanu’s Declaration of Independence. This act is recognized on March 26, 1881 after the end of the Romanian War of Independence.

1893 – The Supreme Court of the United States rules in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit, under the Tariff Act of 1883.

1908 – Mother’s Day is observed for the first time in the United States, in Grafton, West Virginia.

1922 – The United States annex the Kingman Reef.

1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed the Director of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, and remains so until his death in 1972.

1933 – Censorship: In Germany, the Nazis stage massive public book burnings.

1940 – World War II: The first German bombs of the war fall on England at Chilham and Petham, in Kent.

1940 – World War II: Germany invades Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

1940 – World War II: Winston Churchill is appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

1940 – World War II: Invasion of Iceland by the United Kingdom.

1941 – World War II: The House of Commons in London is damaged by the Luftwaffe in an air raid.

1941 – World War II: Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland to try to negotiate a peace deal between the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany.

1942 – World War II: The Thai Phayap Army invades the Shan States during the Burma Campaign.

1946 – First successful launch of an American V-2 rocket at White Sands Proving Ground.

1954 – Bill Haley & His Comets release “Rock Around the Clock”, the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the Billboard charts.

1960 – The nuclear submarine USS Triton completes Operation Sandblast, the first underwater circumnavigation of the earth.

1969 – Vietnam War: The Battle of Dong Ap Bia begins with an assault on Hill 937. It will ultimately become known as Hamburger Hill.

1979 – The Federated States of Micronesia become self-governing.

1981 – Fran├žois Mitterrand wins the presidential election and becomes the first Socialist President of France in the French Fifth Republic.

1993 – In Thailand, a fire at the Kader Toy Factory kills 156 workers.

1994 – Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president.

1997 – A 7.3 Mw earthquake strikes Iran’s Khorasan Province, killing 1,567, injuring over 2,300, leaving 50,000 homeless, and damaging or destroying over 15,000 homes.

2002 – F.B.I. agent Robert Hanssen is given a life sentence without the possibility of parole for selling United States secrets to Moscow for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.

2003 – The May 2003 tornado outbreak sequence takes place.

2005 – A hand grenade thrown by Vladimir Arutinian lands about 65 feet (20 metres) from U.S. President George W. Bush while he is giving a speech to a crowd in Tbilisi, Georgia, but it malfunctions and does not detonate.

2008 – An EF4 tornado strikes the Oklahoma-Kansas state line, killing 21 people and injuring over 100.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day:


       Aurelian of Limoges




       Damien of Molokai (canonized October 11, 2009)

       Gordianus and Epimachus

       John of Avila


       May 10 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Confederate Memorial Day (North Carolina and South Carolina)

   * Constitution Day (Federated States of Micronesia)

   * Earliest possible day on which Pentecost can fall, while June 13 is the latest; celebrated seven weeks after Easter Day. (Christianity)

* Mother’s Day (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico)

1 comment

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    I think human nature is basically good: though we have jealousy and hatred, our dominant characteristics seem to be affection and kindness.

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