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What Happened on May 20?

  • Jeans were patented. (1873) Levi Strauss patented jeans with copper rivets on this day at the request of Jacob Davis, a tailor from Reno, Nevada. The pants were an immediate hit with miners and ranchers, and since then Levi Strauss has sold over 200 million pairs of jeans.

  • Charles Lindbergh took off on the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight. (1927) Lindbergh was the first to make a non-stop flight between New York and Paris; on the same day five years later, Amelia Earhart began her flight as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

  • The street in front of the White House was closed to traffic. (1995) Before this day, anybody could cruise down the two blocks or so in front of the While House in hopes of catching a glimpse of the president. President Clinton closed the street permanently as a security measure.

  • The Homestead Act was passed. (1862) The act allowed any adult over the age of 21 to claim up to 160 acres (0.647 square km) of public land for their own, as long as they improved it in some way and lived on it for at least five years.

  • The First Council of Nicea took place. (325) It was the first large ecumenical meeting of the Christian church, and set up the basis for many modern Christian doctrines. Among other things, the council decided when Easter would be celebrated, defined the relationship of Jesus to God the Father, and settled some issues about baptism.

  • Vasco de Gama reached India. (1498) Portuguese de Gama was the first European to reach India by sea, and his reaching it set up a very profitable trade route for Portugal, which helped it become the foremost exploring power in the early 1500s.

  • The Battle of Hamburger Hill ended. (1969) The battle was one of the bloodiest — and generally considered most pointless — battles of the Vietnam War. The battle for the tactically insignificant hill took ten days, with hundreds of casualties, but US and South Vietnamese forces abandoned it soon after they took it.

  • Martial law was declared in Taiwan. (1949) Chiang Kai-Shek's party, the Kuomintang (KMT), declared martial law when they moved the Republic of China's government to Taiwan. Tensions had been building between native Taiwanese and the KMT for several years, and an estimated 30,000 dissidents were taken care of by KMT forces.

  • The Saturday Evening Post published its first issue with a Norman Rockwell cover. (1916) The magazine became famous for its Americana-themed Rockwell covers; throughout his career, Rockwell did more than 300 covers for the Post.

  • The Supreme Court defended homosexuals' rights. (1996) The Supreme Court struck down legislation that would have made it illegal for Colorado authorities to take any steps to prevent discrimination against homosexuals. It was considered a landmark constitutional ruling for homosexuals' rights.

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