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.
May 24 is the 144th day of the year (145th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 221 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1775, John Hancock is elected president of the Second Continental Congress.
ohn Hancock is best known for his large signature on the Declaration of Independence, which he jested the British could read without spectacles. He was serving as president of Congress upon the declaration’s adoption on July 4, 1776, and, as such, was the first member of the Congress to sign the historic document.
John Hancock graduated from Harvard University in 1754 at age 17 and, with the help of a large inherited fortune, established himself as Boston’s leading merchant. The British customs raid on one of Hancock’s ships, the sloop Liberty, in 1768 incited riots so severe that the British army fled the city of Boston to its barracks in Boston Harbor. Boston merchants promptly agreed to a non-importation agreement to protest the British action. Two years later, it was a scuffle between Patriot protestors and British soldiers on Hancock’s wharf that set the stage for the Boston Massacre.
Hancock’s involvement with Samuel Adams and his radical group, the Sons of Liberty, won the wealthy merchant the dubious distinction of being one of only two Patriots-the other being Sam Adams-that the Redcoats marching to Lexington in April 1775 to confiscate Patriot arms were ordered to arrest. When British General Thomas Gage offered amnesty to the colonists holding Boston under siege, he excluded the same two men from his offer.
President of Congress
With the war underway, Hancock made his way to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia with the other Massachusetts delegates. On May 24, 1775, he was unanimously elected President of the Continental Congress, succeeding Peyton Randolph after Henry Middleton declined the nomination. Hancock was a good choice for president for several reasons. He was experienced, having often presided over legislative bodies and town meetings in Massachusetts. His wealth and social standing inspired the confidence of moderate delegates, while his association with Boston radicals made him acceptable to other radicals. His position was somewhat ambiguous, because the role of the president was not fully defined, and it was not clear if Randolph had resigned or was on a leave of absence. Like other presidents of Congress, Hancock’s authority was limited to that of a presiding officer. He also had to handle a great deal of official correspondence, and he found it necessary to hire clerks at his own expense to help with the paperwork.
Hancock was president of Congress when the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. He is primarily remembered by Americans for his large, flamboyant signature on the Declaration, so much so that “John Hancock” became, in the United States, an informal synonym for signature. According to legend, Hancock signed his name largely and clearly so that King George could read it without his spectacles, but this fanciful story did not appear until many years later.
1218 – The Fifth Crusade leaves Acre for Egypt.
1276 – Magnus Ladulas is crowned King of Sweden in Uppsala Cathedral.
1487 – The ten-year-old Lambert Simnel is crowned in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland with the name of Edward VI in a bid to threaten King Henry VII’s reign.
1595 – Nomenclator of Leiden University Library appears, the first printed catalog of an institutional library.
1621 – The Protestant Union is formally dissolved.
1626 – Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.
1689 – The English Parliament passes the Act of Toleration protecting Protestants. Roman Catholics are intentionally excluded.
1798 – The Irish Rebellion of 1798 led by the United Irishmen against British rule begins.
1830 – Mary Had a Little Lamb by Sarah Josepha Hale is published.
1830 – The first revenue trains in the United States begin service on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore, Maryland and Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland.
1832 – The First Kingdom of Greece is declared in the London Conference.
1844 – Samuel Morse sends the message “What hath God wrought” (a biblical quotation, Numbers 23:23) from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the United States Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore, Maryland to inaugurate the first telegraph line.
1846 – Mexican-American War: General Zachary Taylor captures Monterrey.
1856 – John Brown and his men murder five slavery supporters at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas.
1861 – American Civil War: Union troops occupy Alexandria, Virginia.
1883 – The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is opened to traffic after 14 years of construction.
1895 – Henry Irving becomes the first person from the theatre to be knighted.
1900 – Second Boer War: The United Kingdom annexes the Orange Free State.
1901 – Seventy-eight miners die in the Caerphilly pit disaster in South Wales.
1915 – World War I: Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.
1921 – The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti opens.
1930 – Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia (she left on May 5 for the 11,000 mile flight).
1935 – The first night game in Major League Baseball history is played in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the Cincinnati Reds beating the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 at Crosley Field.
1940 – Igor Sikorsky performs the first successful single-rotor helicopter flight.
1941 – World War II: In the Battle of the Atlantic, the German Battleship Bismarck sinks the then pride of the Royal Navy, HMS Hood, killing all but three crewmen.
1943 – Holocaust: Josef Mengele becomes chief medical officer of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
1948 – Arab-Israeli War: Egypt finally captures the Israeli kibbutz of Yad Mordechai, but the five-day effort gives Israeli forces time to prepare enough to stop the Egyptian advance a week later.
1956 – Conclusion of the Sixth Buddhist Council on Vesak Day, marking the 2,500 year anniversary after the Lord Buddha’s Parinibbana.
1956 – The first Eurovision Song Contest is held in Lugano, Switzerland
1958 – United Press International is formed through a merger of the United Press and the International News Service.
1960 – Following the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, the largest ever recorded earthquake, Cordon Caulle begins to erupt.
1961 – American civil rights movement: Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for “disturbing the peace” after disembarking from their bus.
1962 – Project Mercury: American astronaut Scott Carpenter orbits the Earth three times in the Aurora 7 space capsule.
1967 – Egypt imposes a blockade and siege of the Red Sea coast of Israel.
1968 – FLQ separatists bomb the U.S. consulate in Quebec City.
1970 – The drilling of the Kola Superdeep Borehole begins in the Soviet Union.
1976 – The London to Washington, D.C. Concorde service begins.
1976 – The Judgement of Paris takes place in France, launching California as a worldwide force in the production of quality wine.
1980 – The International Court of Justice calls for the release of United States embassy hostages in Tehran, Iran. The hostages would not be freed until the following January.
1982 – Liberation of Khorramshahr: Iranians recapture of the port city of Khorramshahr from the Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq War.
1988 – Section 28 of the United Kingdom’s Local Government Act 1988, a controversial amendment stating that a local authority cannot intentionally promote homosexuality, is enacted.
1989 – Sonia Sutcliffe, wife of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, is awarded £600,000 in damages (later reduced to £60,000 on appeal) after winning a libel action against Private Eye.
1990 – A car carrying American Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney explodes in Oakland, California, critically injuring both.
1991 – Eritrea gains its independence from Ethiopia.
1991 – Israel conducts Operation Solomon, evacuating Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
1992 – The last Thai dictator, General Suchinda Kraprayoon, resigns following pro-democracy protests.
1994 – Four men convicted of bombing the World Trade Center in New York in 1993 are each sentenced to 240 years in prison.
2000 – Israeli troops withdraw from southern Lebanon after 22 years of occupation.
2001 – Mountain climbing: 15-year-old Sherpa Temba Tsheri becomes the youngest person to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
2001 – The Versailles wedding hall disaster in Jerusalem, Israel, kills 23 and injures over 200
2002 – Russia and the United States sign the Moscow Treaty.
2004 – Communications in North Korea: North Korea bans mobile phones.
* Aldersgate Day (Methodism)
* Battle of Pichincha Day (Ecuador)
* Bermuda Day (Bermuda)
* Christian Feast Day:
* Sarah (celebrated by the Romani people of Camargue)
* Vincent of Lérins
* May 24 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
* Commonwealth Day (Belize)
* Independence Day, celebrates the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993.
* Lubiri Memorial Day (Buganda)
* Saints Cyril and Methodius Day (Eastern Orthodox Church) and its related observance:
* Bulgarian Education and Culture and Slavonic Literature Day (Bulgaria)
* Saints Cyril and Methodius, Slavonic Enlighteners’ Day (Republic of Macedonia)
* Victoria Day; celebrated on Monday on or before May 24. (Canada)
* National Patriots Day or Journée nationale des patriotes. (Quebec)