What Happened on August 11?

  • The "Watt's Riots" started in Los Angeles, California. (1965) The riots were the worst in the history of Los Angeles until the riots in 1992. The riot started after two white police officers fought with a black man suspected of drunk driving. Riots began as spectators watched the fight; violence spread over a 50-mile (81-kilometer) area and lasted six days, causing more than $40 million US Dollars in damage. 34 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.

  • The SOS distress signal was used for the first time. (1909) The Arapahoe, an American ship off the coast of North Carolina, experienced a broken shaft while sailing on the Atlantic Ocean. Its distress signal was the fist well-documented use of the SOS call.

  • The first civilian prisoners arrived at the US Federal prison on Alcatraz. (1934) Alcatraz had previously held military prisoners from the Civil War. It operated for 29 years, holding such famous prisoners as Al Capone. It is perhaps most famous for its history of zero successful prison escapes.

  • Al-Qaeda was established. (1988) Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization run by militant Islamics. It is responsible for many civilian and military attacks, including the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.

  • Major League Baseball players started the biggest baseball strike in history. (1994) The strike, which lasted 232 days, resulted in the cancellation of the World Series; it was the first time the championship series wasn't played since 1904.

  • 350 million people viewed the last solar eclipse of the 20th century. (1999) It was the first eclipse visible in England since 1927. Because it passed over the densely populated areas of Europe and Asia, it was the most-watched solar eclipse in history.

  • A hurricane hit the US state of Louisiana, killing 400 people. (1856) A resort community called Isle Derniere was completely submerged when waves carried hundreds of people to their deaths.

  • Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run, becoming the first baseball player to do so. (1929) He ended his career in 1935 with 714 career home runs — still the third best in Major League Baseball history.

  • A heat wave killed 144 people in Paris, France. (2003) The temperature in Paris soared to a record 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius) during Europe's hottest summer in more than 500 years.

  • The biggest shopping mall in the United States opened. (1992) The Mall of America in Minnesota still is the largest mall in the US in terms of the number of retail stores; it is now the second largest in terms of square footage. More than 40 million people shop at the mall each year.

  • The Mayan Long Count Calendar started. (3114 BC) A second long cycle of the calendar will end on December 21, 2012 — a date much anticipated by pessimists who believe the date signals the end of the world.

Discussion Comments


I worked for a Dallas company that had some business in California. I was told late one day that I was to go home and pack and be on the next plane to Los Angeles. The next day my path took me just past the riot scene. I saw police Jeeps with shotguns at the ready on patrol. It's very strange to be in a quiet place one day and the next on the edge of a riot scene! CHB

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