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Today In History – April 12 – First Space Shuttle Launched





1770: British repeal hated Townshend Act: On this fateful day in 1770, the British government moves to mollify outraged colonists by repealing most of the clauses of the hated Townshend Act. Initially passed on June 29, 1767, the Townshend Act constituted an attempt by the British government to consolidate fiscal and political power over the American colonies by placing import taxes on many of the British products bought by Americans, including lead, paper, paint, glass and tea. More here

1861: The Civil War begins: The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.” More here

1914: First movie “palace” opens: On this day in 1914, the Mark Strand Theatre opens to the public in New York City.

Located at Broadway and 47th Street, in the heart of Manhattan’s Theater District, the theater was the creation of Mitchell L. Mark, who began his motion-picture career as a producer but later became an exhibitor.

Before 1914, motion-picture exhibitors had generally showcased their offerings behind modest storefronts, dubbed “nickelodeons” after the original Nickelodeon that opened in Pittsburgh in 1905. By contrast, the Mark Strand Theatre–later known simply as the Strand–was the first of the so-called “dream palaces,” called as such for their impressive size and luxuriously appointed interiors. The Strand seated around 3,000 people and boasted a second-floor viewing balcony and (in an architectural innovation at the time) a two-story rotunda where moviegoers could socialize before and after the presentation and during intermission. More here

1945: President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies: While on a vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia, President Roosevelt suffers a stroke and dies. His death marked a critical turning point in U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, as his successor, Harry S. Truman, decided to take a tougher stance with the Russians.

By April 1945, Roosevelt had been elected president of the United States four times and had served for over 12 years. He had seen the United States through some of its darkest days, from the depths of the Great Depression through the toughest times of World War II. In early 1945, shortly after being sworn in for his fourth term as president, Roosevelt was on the verge of leading his nation to triumph in the Second World War. Germany teetered on the brink of defeat, and the Japanese empire was crumbling under the blows of the American military. In February 1945, Roosevelt traveled to Yalta in the Soviet Union to meet with Russian leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to discuss the postwar world. Roosevelt returned from these intense meetings drawn and sick. He vacationed in Warm Springs, Georgia, but the rest did not lead to recuperation. On April 12, 1945, he suffered a massive stroke and died. More here

1961: First man in space: On April 12, 1961, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.” More here

1981: First space shuttle launched: The space shuttle Columbia is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, becoming the first reusable manned spacecraft to travel into space. Piloted by astronauts Robert L. Crippen and John W. Young, the Columbia undertook a 54-hour space flight of 36 orbits before successfully touching down at California’s Edwards Air Force Base on April 14. More here

2002: A female suicide bomber detonated at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda open-air market: Because of its high pedestrian traffic, Mahane Yehuda Market was a target for terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada: On April 12, 2002, a female suicide bomber detonated at the entrance to Mahane Yehuda, killing 7 and injuring 104. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

The suicide attack was carried out on April 12, 2002. The terrorist, Andalib Suleiman, a 21-year-old Tanzim operative from Bethlehem, blew herself up at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. In this attack six people were killed and over 100 were injured. Among those killed were two workers from China. More here, here and here

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