On This Day in History February 23

February 23 – Events:

  • 303 – Emperor Diocletian orders general persecution of Christians.
  • 1455 – Traditional date for the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type.
  • 1660 – Charles XI becomes King of Sweden.
  • 1778 – American Revolution: Baron von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to help to train the Continental Army.
  • 1820 – Cato Street Conspiracy: A plot to murder all the British cabinet ministers is exposed.
  • 1821 – College of Apothecaries organized in Philadelphia; first US pharmacy college.
  • 1822 – Boston is incorporated as a city.
  • 1836 – The Battle of the Alamo begins in San Antonio, Texas.
  • 1847 – Mexican-American War: Battle of Buena Vista – In Mexico, American troops under General Zachary Taylor defeat Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna.
  • 1852 – HMS Birkenhead sinks off South Africa killing 420 troops
  • 1854 – The official independence of the Orange Free State is declared.
  • 1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington, D.C., after an assassination attempt in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • 1870 – Military control of Mississippi ends and it is readmitted to the Union.
  • 1883 – Alabama becomes the first U.S. state to enact an antitrust law.
  • 1887 – The French Riviera is hit by a large earthquake, killing around 2,000.
  • 1898 – Émile Zola is imprisoned in France after writing “J’accuse,” a letter accusing the French government of anti-Semitism and wrongfully placing Captain Alfred Dreyfus in jail.
  • 1900 – In South Africa, the Boers and British troops fight in the Battle of Hart’s Hill.
  • 1903 – Cuba leases Guantanamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity.”
  • 1904 – The United States gains control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10 million.
  • 1905 – Chicago attorney Paul Harris and three other businessmen meet for lunch to form the Rotary Club, the world’s first service club.
  • 1909 – The AEA Silver Dart makes the first powered flight in Canada and the British Empire.
  • 1917 – First demonstrations in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The beginning of the February Revolution.
  • 1918 – First victory of Red Army over the Kaiser’s German troops near Narva and Pskov. Since 1923 this date become the Day of Red Army in honor of this victory.
  • 1919 – Benito Mussolini forms the Fascist Party in Italy.
  • 1927 – The Federal Radio Commission (later renamed the Federal Communications Commission) begins to regulate the use of radio frequencies.
  • 1934 – Léopold III becomes King of Belgium.
  • 1934 – Casey Stengel becomes manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • 1941 – Plutonium was first produced and isolated by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg.
  • 1944 – Forced deportation of the Chechen and Ingush people to Central Asia.
  • 1945 – World War II: During the Battle of Iwo Jima, a group of United States Marines and a commonly forgotten U.S. Navy Corpsman, reach the top of Mount Suribachi on the island and are photographed raising the American flag. The photo would later win a Pulitzer Prize.
  • 1945 – World War II: The capital of the Philippines, Manila, is liberated by American forces.
  • 1945 – World War II: Capitulation of German garrison in Poznan, the city is liberated by Soviet and Polish forces.
  • 1945 – World War II: The German town of Pforzheim is completely destroyed by a raid of 379 British bombers.
  • 1945 – World War II: The Verona Philharmonic Theatre is bombed by Allied forces. It would later be re-opened in 1975.
  • 1947 – The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is founded.
  • 1954 – The first mass inoculation of children against polio with the Salk vaccine began in Pittsburgh.
  • 1955 – First meeting of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).
  • 1957 – The founding congress of the Senegalese Popular Bloc is opened in Dakar.
  • 1958 – Cuban rebels kidnap 5-time world driving champion Juan Manuel Fangio.
  • 1960 – Demolition begins on Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
  • 1966 – A military coup in Syria replaces the previous government.
  • 1973 – Gold goes up $10 overnight to record $95 an ounce in London.
  • 1974 – The Symbionese Liberation Army demands $4 million more to release kidnap victim Patty Hearst.
  • 1975 – In response to the energy crisis, daylight saving time commences nearly two months early in the United States.
  • 1979 – Frank Peterson, Jr., named first black general in Marine Corps.
  • 1980 – Eric Heiden wins all 5 speed skating gold medals at Lake Placid Olympics.
  • 1980 – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini states that Iran’s parliament would decide the fate of the American embassy hostages.
  • 1981 – Antonio Tejero attempts a coup d’état by capturing the Spanish Congress of Deputies. 
  • 1983 – The Spanish Socialist government of Felipe González and Miguel Boyer nationalizes Rumasa, a holding of José María Ruiz Mateos.
  • 1983 – The United States Environmental Protection Agency announces its intent to buy out and evacuate the dioxin-contaminated community of Times Beach, Missouri.
  • 1987 – Supernova 1987a: A supernova is seen in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
  • 1991 – Gulf War: Ground troops cross the Saudi Arabia border and enter Iraq, thus starting the ground-phase of the war.
  • 1991 – In Thailand, General Sunthorn Kongsompong leads a bloodless coup d’état, deposing Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan.
  • 1992 – The Socialist Labour Party is founded in Georgia.
  • 1995 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average gains 30.28 to close at 4,003.33, closing above  4,000 for the first time.
  • 1997 – A large fire occurs in the Russian Space station, Mir.
  • 1998 – Kissimmee Tornado Outbreak: Tornadoes in central Florida destroy or damage 2,600 structures and kill 42.
  • 1998 – Osama bin Laden publishes a fatwa declaring jihad against all Jews and Crusaders.
  • 1999 – Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan is charged with treason in Ankara, Turkey.
  • 1999 – An avalanche destroys the Austrian village of Galtür, killing 31.
  • 2005 – Slovakia Summit 2005 begins, marking the first occasion when a sitting American President visits Slovakia; George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin are in attendance.
  • 2005 – Vote of the controversial French law on colonialism, repealed start of 2006.
  • 2006 – Dubai Ports World agrees to postpone its plans to take over management of six U.S. ports after the proposal ignited harsh bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill.
  • 2007 – Japan launches its fourth spy satellite, stepping up its ability to monitor potential threats such as North Korea.

February 23 – Birthdays:

  • 1417 – Pope Paul II (d. 1471)
  • 1583 – Jean-Baptiste Morin, French scientist (d. 1656)
  • 1633 – Samuel Pepys, English naval administrator and man of letters, posthumously famous as a diarist (d. 1703)
  • 1646 – Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Japanese shogun (d. 1709)
  • 1648 – Arabella Churchill, English mistress of James II of England (d. 1730)
  • 1680 – Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, French colonizer and Governor of Louisiana (d. 1767)
  • 1685 – Georg Friedrich Handel, German/British Baroque composer (d. 1759)
  • 1723 – Richard Price, Welsh philosopher (d. 1791)
  • 1729 – Josiah Hornblower, American statesman (d. 1809)
  • 1743 – Mayer Amschel Rothschild, German-born banker (d. 1812)
  • 1809 – William Sprague, American minister and politician from Michigan (d. 1868)
  • 1842 – Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann, German philosopher (d. 1906)
  • 1850 – César Ritz, Swiss hotelier (d. 1918)
  • 1868 – W.E.B. DuBois, American civil rights leader (d. 1963)
  • 1873 – Liang Qichao, Chinese scholar (d. 1929)
  • 1874 – Konstantin Päts, Estonian president (d. 1956)
  • 1878 – Kazimir Malevich, Ukrainian painter and art theorist (d. 1935)
  • 1883 – Karl Jaspers, German philosopher (d. 1969)
  • 1889 – Victor Fleming, American director (d. 1949)
  • 1889 – Musidora, French actress and director (d. 1957)
  • 1891 – Harold Horder, Australian Rugby League player (d. 1978)
  • 1899 – Erich Kästner, German writer (d. 1974)
  • 1899 – Norman Taurog, American film director (d. 1981)
  • 1901 – Edgar Ende, German painter (d. 1965)
  • 1904 – Terence Fisher, English film director (d. 1980)
  • 1904 – William L. Shirer, American historian (d. 1993)
  • 1904 – Leopold Trepper, Soviet spy (d. 1982)
  • 1908 – William McMahon, twentieth Prime Minister of Australia (d. 1988)
  • 1914 – Theofiel Middelkamp, Dutch cyclist (d. 2005)
  • 1915 – Jon Hall, American actor (d. 1979)
  • 1915 – Paul Tibbets, US Air Force retired Brigadier General and Pilot of B-29 “Enola Gay” over Hiroshima (d. 2007)
  • 1918 – Richard G. Butler, American fascist (d. 2004)
  • 1920 – Paul Gérin-Lajoie, French Canadian politician
  • 1923 – Rafael Addiego Bruno, Uruguayan politician
  • 1924 – Allan McLeod Cormack, South-African born physicist, Nobel laureate (d. 1998)
  • 1924 – Claude Sautet, French film director (d. 2000)
  • 1927 – Régine Crespin, French operatic soprano (d. 2007)
  • 1928 – Hans Herrmann, German race car driver
  • 1928 – Vasili Lazarev, cosmonaut (d. 1990)
  • 1931 – Tom Wesselmann, American collage artist (d. 2004)
  • 1932 – Majel Barrett, American actress
  • 1937 – Tom Osborne, American football coach and politician
  • 1938 – Diane Varsi, American actress (d. 1992)
  • 1940 – Peter Fonda, American actor
  • 1941 – Ron Hunt, baseball player
  • 1943 – Fred Biletnikoff, American football player and coach
  • 1944 – Bernard Cornwell, English historical novelist
  • 1944 – John Sandford, American novelist
  • 1944 – Johnny Winter, American musician
  • 1945 – Allan Boesak, South African activist
  • 1946 – Rusty Young, American country-rock guitarist (Poco)
  • 1947 – John McWethy, American journalist (d. 2008)
  • 1947 – Pia Kjærsgaard, Danish politician
  • 1948 – Doug Moench, American comic book writer
  • 1949 – Marc Garneau, French Canadian astronaut
  • 1950 – Maxi, Irish singer and radio personality
  • 1951 – Ed “Too Tall” Jones, American football player
  • 1951 – Patricia Richardson, American actress
  • 1952 – Brad Whitford, American musician (Aerosmith)
  • 1953 – Satoru Nakajima, Japanese racing driver
  • 1954 – Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine
  • 1955 – Tom Bodett, American voice actor, radio personality, and writer
  • 1955 – Howard Jones, British pop singer
  • 1958 – Tony Barrell, English writer and journalist
  • 1958 – David Sylvian, English musician (Japan, Nine Horses)
  • 1959 – Richard Dodds, British field hockey player
  • 1960 – Alan Griffin, Australian politician
  • 1960 – Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan
  • 1961 – Kelly Hansen, American drummer (Summer Lights)
  • 1962 – Michael Wilton, American musician (Queensrÿche)
  • 1963 – Bobby Bonilla, former baseball player
  • 1963 – Radoslaw Sikorski, Polish politician
  • 1964 – John Norum, Norwegian guitarist (Europe)
  • 1965 – Kristin Davis, American actress
  • 1965 – Michael Dell, American computer manufacturer
  • 1965 – Helena Suková, former Czech tennis player
  • 1965 – Veronica Webb, American supermodel and actress
  • 1967 – Tamsin Greig, English actress
  • 1968 – Justin Bell, British racing driver
  • 1969 – Marc Wauters, Belgian cyclist
  • 1970 – Marie-Josée Croze, French Canadian actress
  • 1970 – Niecy Nash, American actress
  • 1971 – Jeong Chan, South Korean actor
  • 1971 – Don Maxwell, Canadian cricketer
  • 1971 – Melinda Messenger, English television presenter
  • 1971 – Joe-Max Moore, American soccer player
  • 1972 – Steve Holy, American country singer
  • 1972 – Rondell White, American baseball player
  • 1973 – Jack Case, American artist
  • 1973 – Lars-Olof Johansson, Swedish musician (The Cardigans)
  • 1974 – Leko, American DJ
  • 1974 – Jaime Villarreal, Mexican musician
  • 1974 – Herschelle Gibbs, South African cricketer
  • 1975 – Michael Cornacchia, American actor
  • 1975 – Robert Lopez, American composer
  • 1975 – Natalia Verbeke, Argentine actress
  • 1976 – Kelly Macdonald, British actress
  • 1977 – Kristina Šmigun, Estonian cross-country skier
  • 1978 – René Pérez, Puerto Rican musician (Calle 13)
  • 1978 – Dan Snyder, Canadian ice hockey player (d. 2003)
  • 1979 – D-Roc, American rapper (Ying Yang Twins)
  • 1980 – Karan Singh Grover, an Indian television actor
  • 1981 – Gareth Barry, English footballer
  • 1981 – Charles Tillman, American football player
  • 1982 – Adam Hann-Byrd, American actor
  • 1983 – Mirco Bergamasco, Italian rugby player
  • 1983 – Mido, Egyptian footballer
  • 1983 – Emily Blunt, British actress
  • 1983 – Aziz Ansari, Indian American Comedian
  • 1986 – Holly Brook, American musician
  • 1986 – Kazuya Kamenashi, Japanese pop star (KAT-TUN)
  • 1989 – Evan Bates, American ice dancer
  • 1994 – Dakota Fanning, American actress

February 23 – Deaths:

  • 943 – Herbert II, Count of Vermandois, (b. 884)
  • 1011 – Willigis, Archbishop of Mainz
  • 1100 – Emperor Zhezong of China (b. 1076)
  • 1270 – Saint Isabel of France, daughter of Louis VIII of France (b. 1225)
  • 1447 – Pope Eugene IV (b. 1383)
  • 1447 – Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (b. 1390)
  • 1464 – Zhengtong, Emperor of China (b. 1427)
  • 1526 – Diego Colón, Spanish Viceroy of the Indies
  • 1554 – Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, English politician (executed) (bc. 1515)
  • 1572 – Pierre Certon, French composer
  • 1603 – Andrea Cesalpino, Italian philosopher, physician, and botanist (b. 1519)
  • 1669 – Leo Aitzema, Dutch historian and statesman (b. 1600)
  • 1704 – Georg Muffat, French composer (b. 1653)
  • 1730 – Pope Benedict XIII (b. 1649)
  • 1766 – Stanislaw Leszczynski, King of Poland (b. 1677)
  • 1781 – George Taylor, American signer of the Declaration of Independence (bc. 1716)
  • 1792 – Joshua Reynolds, English painter (b. 1723)
  • 1800 – Joseph Warton, English literary critic (b. 1722)
  • 1819 – John Keats, English poet (b. 1795)
  • 1848 – John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States (b. 1767)
  • 1855 – Carl Friedrich Gauss, German mathematician, astronomer, and physicist (b. 1777)
  • 1859 – Zygmunt Krasinski, Polish Romantic poet (b. 1812)
  • 1879 – Albrecht Graf von Roon, Prime Minister of Prussia (b. 1803)
  • 1897 – Woldemar Bargiel, German composer (b. 1828)
  • 1908 – Johannes Friedrich August von Esmarch, German surgeon (b. 1823)
  • 1922 – Albert Victor Bäcklund, Swedish physicist (b. 1845)
  • 1930 – Horst Wessel, Nazi ideologue and composer (b. 1907)
  • 1931 – Nellie Melba, Australian opera soprano (b. 1861)
  • 1934 – Edward Elgar, English composer (b. 1857)
  • 1944 – Leo Hendrik Baekeland, Flemish-American chemist and inventor of the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite (b. 1863)
  • 1946 – Tomoyuki Yamashita, Japanese general (hanged) (b. 1885)
  • 1948 – John Robert Gregg, Irish-born publisher and inventor (b. 1866)
  • 1955 – Paul Claudel, French poet and playwright (b. 1868)
  • 1957 – Marika Ninou, Greek singer (b. 1918)
  • 1960 – Arthur Legat, Belgian racing driver (b. 1898)
  • 1965 – Stan Laurel, British born actor and comedian (b. 1890)
  • 1969 – King Saud of Saudi Arabia (b. 1902)
  • 1973 – Dickinson W. Richards, American physician, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1895)
  • 1974 – Harry Ruby, American composer and writer (b. 1895)
  • 1976 – LS Lowry, English artist (b. 1887)
  • 1979 – W.A.C. Bennett, Canadian politician (b. 1900)
  • 1983 – Herbert Howells, English composer (b. 1892)
  • 1990 – José Napoleón Duarte, President of El Salvador (b. 1925)
  • 1992 – Markos Vafiadis, Greek politician (b. 1906)
  • 1995 – Melvin Franklin, American singer (The Temptations) (b. 1942)
  • 1995 – James Herriot, English writer (b. 1916)
  • 1997 – Tony Williams, American jazz drummer (b. 1945)
  • 2000 – Ofra Haza, Israeli singer (b. 1957)
  • 2000 – Stanley Matthews, English footballer (b. 1915)
  • 2001 – Robert Enrico, French film director and screenwriter (b. 1931)
  • 2003 – Robert K. Merton, American sociologist (b. 1910)
  • 2003 – Howie Epstein, American bass guitarist (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) (b. 1955)
  • 2004 – Vijay Anand, Indian film director (b. 1934)
  • 2004 – Carl Anderson, American singer (b. 1945)
  • 2004 – Sikander Bakht, Governor of Kerala (b. 1918)
  • 2004 – Don Cornell, American singer (b. 1919)
  • 2004 – Carl Liscombe, Canadian hockey player (b. 1915)
  • 2006 – Benno Besson, Swiss actor and film director (b. 1922)
  • 2006 – Telmo Zarraonaindía, Spanish footballer (b. 1921)
  • 2007 – Donnie Brooks, American singer (b. 1936)
  • 2007 – John Ritchie, British footballer (b. 1941)
  • 2008 – Janez Drnovšek, Slovenian prime minister and president (b. 1950)
  • 2008 – Paul Frère, Belgian race car driver and motorsport journalist (b. 1917)
  • 2008 – Douglas Fraser, Scottish pilot, first to land at Newfoundland Airport on January 11, 1938 (b. 1916)

February 23 – Holidays:

  • Roman Empire – Terminalia held in honor of Terminus.
  • Guyana – Mashramani-Republic Day.
  • Russia – Defender of the Fatherland Day (formerly Red Army Day or Day of Soviet Army and Navy).
  • Brunei – National Day.
  • Catholicism – Feast day of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (died 155).

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