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What Happened on February 8?

  • The Allies secured Guadalcanal. (1943) Guadalcanal was the site of major fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II, and American troops had been trying to secure it for over a year. The American victory in Guadalcanal was a major turning point in that part of the war, and allowed American troops to start moving up through the Solomon Islands towards Japan.

  • Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed. (1587) She had been arrested for being involved in a plot to assassinate her cousin, Elizabeth I, despite being imprisoned for more than 18 years. She was beheaded on this day in front of 300 witnesses, cementing Elizabeth's rule over England.

  • The NASDAQ opened for the first time. (1971) It was the world's first electronic stock exchange, and became one of the most important financial indices in the world.

  • The Dawes Act was signed into law. (1887) The act allowed Americans to survey Native American land and divide it into individual allotments, an alien concept to the largely communal tribes. Many scholars feel the Dawes Act significantly damaged Native American society, and was an unwanted attempt to impose Western values on Native Americans.

  • A doctor in Salem, Massachusetts declares that two girls might be suffering from witchcraft. (1692) This was one of the events that started the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials.

  • The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated. (1910) The organization was founded in America by William Boyce, an adventurer, after he learned about the Boy Scouts in Britain, which had been founded a few years earlier. The organization was one of the first social organizations to welcome members regardless of race.

  • US President Harding installed the first radio in the White House. (1922) The radio was starting to become a major entertainment and information medium in America, and Harding made good use of it. Besides having a radio in his home, Harding was also the first president to have his election covered on the radio, and was also the first president to speak over the radio.

  • "Birth of a Nation" premiered. (1915) The film remains a controversial landmark in American cinema because of its inventive cinematography coupled with an extremely racist plot. Still studied as a mastery of propaganda, the movie was so radical that it caused riots in some cities, and was banned outright in others.

  • The Russo-Japanese War began. (1912) The war began with a surprise attack by the Japanese on Port Arthur, a Russian harbor. It was largely a military embarrassment for Russia, who lost unequivocally, and sparked fears about Japan's growing military power in Western nations.

  • Peter the Great died. (1725) He was best known for modernizing Russia — by force at times — to try to make it as powerful as the other Western European nations were at the time. He was succeeded by his wife, Catherine the Great, who continued a series of radical political reform.

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