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Today In History – April 21 – Rome Founded





0753: Rome founded: According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, found Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants. Actually, the Romulus and Remus myth originated sometime in the fourth century B.C., and the exact date of Rome’s founding was set by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro in the first century B.C.: More here

1865: Lincoln’s funeral train leaves D.C.: On this day in 1865, a train carrying the coffin of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln leaves Washington, D.C. on its way to Springfield, Illinois, where he would be buried on May 4.

The train carrying Lincoln’s body traveled through 180 cities and seven states on its way to Lincoln’s home state of Illinois. Scheduled stops for the special funeral train were published in newspapers. At each stop, Lincoln’s coffin was taken off the train, placed on an elaborately decorated horse-drawn hearse and led by solemn processions to a public building for viewing. In cities as large as Columbus, Ohio, and as small as Herkimer, New York, thousands of mourners flocked to pay tribute to the slain president. In Philadelphia, Lincoln’s body lay in state on in the east wing of Independence Hall, the same site where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Newspapers reported that people had to wait more than five hours to pass by the president’s coffin in some cities. More here

1930: Prisoners left to burn in Ohio fire: A fire at an Ohio prison kills 320 inmates, some of whom burn to death when they are not unlocked from their cells. It is one of the worst prison disasters in American history. The prison, built to hold 1,500 people, was almost always overcrowded and notorious for its poor conditions. At the time of the 1930 fire, there were 4,300 prisoners living in the jail. Construction crews were working on an expansion and scaffolding was set up along one side of the building. On the night of April 21, a fire broke out on the scaffolding.

The cell block adjacent to the scaffolding housed 800 prisoners, most of whom were already locked in for the night. The inmates begged to be let out of their cells as smoke filled the cell block. However, most reports claim that the guards not only refused to unlock the cells, they continued to lock up other prisoners. Meanwhile, the fire spread to the roof, endangering the inmates on the prison’s upper level as well.

Finally, two prisoners forcibly took the keys from a guard and began their own rescue efforts. Approximately 50 inmates made it out of their cells before the heavy smoke stopped the impromptu evacuation. The roof then caved in on the upper cells. About 160 prisoners burned to death.

Although some guards did work to save the lives of their charges, the seemingly willful indifference displayed by other guards led to a general riot. Firefighters initially could not get access to the fire because angry prisoners were pelting them with rocks. By the time the fire was controlled, 320 people were dead and another 130 were seriously injured.

The tragedy was roundly condemned in the press as preventable. It also led to the repeal of laws on minimum sentences that had in part caused the overcrowding of the prison. The Ohio Parole Board was established in 1931 and within the next year more than 2,300 prisoners from the Ohio Penitentiary had been released on parole. More here

1967: GM celebrates 100 millionth U.S.-made car: On April 21, 1967, General Motors (GM) celebrates the manufacture of its 100 millionth American-made car. At the time, GM was the world’s largest automaker.

General Motors was established in 1908 in Flint, Michigan, by horse-drawn carriage mogul William Durant. In 1904, Durant invested in the Buick Motor Company, which was started in 1903 by Scottish-born inventor David Dunbar Buick. Within a few years of forming his company, Buick lost control of it and sold his stock, which would later be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. (In 1929, Buick died at age 74 in relative obscurity and modest circumstances). Durant made Buick Motors the cornerstone of his new holding company, General Motors, then acquired Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Reliance Motor Company, among other auto and truck makers. More here

1992: Executions resume in California: Robert Alton Harris is executed in California’s gas chamber after 13 years on death row. This was California’s first execution since former Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other state supreme court justices, Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso, had been rejected by California voters. From 1979 to 1986, the Bird court had reversed 64 out of the 68 death penalty cases on appeal. Supporters of capital punishment initiated a campaign against Bird, Grodin, and Reynoso, successfully ousting them from the court in 1986. Republican Governor George Deukmejian then appointed three justices in favor of the death penalty to take their places. More here

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