What Happened on February 17?

  • The Missouri Compromise was passed. (1820) This piece of legislation was designed to deal with the issue of whether the new states joining the US would be free states or slave states. Each side of the slavery issue wanted to make sure that the other wouldn't get the upper hand by having more states, so the Missouri Compromise was worked out, and made it so all states above a certain latitude would be free states, while all below would be slave states.

  • The world chess champion Garry Kasparov beat the Deep Blue supercomputer. (1996) The world had been shocked a few days earlier with Kasparov lost the first game of a tournament to Deep Blue. By winning the last game of the tournament on this day, Kasparov won the tournament, and Deep Blue went into retirement.

  • The US had its first peaceful transfer of power between political parties. (1801) Thomas Jefferson was elected on this day by a tiebreaker in the House of Representatives after he and Aaron Burr tied for votes in the Electoral College. The House chose Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican — as opposed to the Federalist former President John Adams — just two weeks before his inauguration.

  • The H.L. Hunley became the first submarine to sink a ship. (1864) The Hunley sank the USS Housatonic, a Union ship that was on the blockade duty. The submarine had a history of sinking itself — before it took down the Housatonic, it had sunk twice, killing its crew members, and shortly after this day, the Hunley sunk again, this time for good.

  • The Voice of America began broadcasting to Russia. (1947) The VOA was a major propaganda campaign against the USSR, and it broadcast news about America, American policies, and most importantly, American music, which is what made it popular.

  • The Volkswagen Beetle became the best-selling car. (1972) The 15,007,034th Beetle was made on this day, beating out the Model T as the world's best-selling car after four decades. The car was originally designed to be the car of Aryan Germany, but found popularity in the US after World War II was over. It became an icon of the hippie movement, and even experienced a renaissance with the New Beetle in 1998.

  • "Madame Butterfly" premiered. (1904) Giacomo Puccini's famous opera had its world premier at the La Scala theater in Milan on this day. The work was booed at its premier, leading Puccini to make massive revisions before releasing it again four months later to rave reviews.

  • China invaded Vietnam. (1979) Although China and Vietnam had been friendly in the Vietnam War, tensions quickly escalated after it ended. Vietnam tried to establish a military force in Southeast Asia, and strengthened its relationship with the USSR, China's rival. China responded by invading Vietnam, but were defeated in 9 days.

  • Jeffrey Dahmer was given 15 life sentences. (1992) Dahmer was a serial killer known for his particularly unsavory acts with the bodies of those he killed. He was charged with the murder of 17 men and boys and received a total of 957 years in prison, although he was beaten to death two years later by a fellow inmate.

  • Geronimo died. (1909) Geronimo was a prominent Apache leader, and led many raids and battles against US forces. He eventually died of pneumonia after a fall from a horse left him stranded outside overnight.

Discussion Comments


Many interesting things happened on February 17th, but my personal favorite is when Giacomo Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" was rejected and booed by many on opening night. I personally find it funny because it symbolizes how sometimes, we think we're ready for the big show, or how when we're ready to show off our work, there's still a lot of revisions that need to be done. I'm glad it later led to great reviews though.


Before reading this article, I didn't know much about Jeffery Dahmer, and it really shows how the events that happen over the years become a part of existence, never to be forgotten. Personally, I find it kind of upsetting that he was beaten to death by an inmate. I know he was a serial killer who did unspeakable things to his victims, but no one really deserves that. It makes his prison sentence seem rather pointless.

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