What Happened on May 23?

  • The New York Public Library was dedicated. (1911) The New York landmark — and largest marble structure in the US — was dedicated on this day by President William Taft. More than 40,000 people used it the first day after its dedication.

  • Bonnie and Clyde were killed. (1934) Police killed the notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana in a dramatic shoot out. The two criminals were heavily romanticized in the American media, and many saw them as Robin Hood like figures.

  • Henry VIII's first marriage was annulled. (1533) Henry VIII had his marriage to Katherine of Aragon declared null when she failed to give him a son. He quickly married Anne Boleyn, but that didn't last either, and he went through four more wives before his death.

  • The accordion was patented. (1829) Austrian instrument maker Cyrill Demian patented the accordion on this day. Though an accordion-like instrument, the Handäoline, had been patented several years earlier, the modern accordion was that patented by Demian.

  • The Second Defenestration of Prague occurred. (1618) Several Protestants defenestrated — that is, tossed out a window — several higher-ups in the Bohemian government. The act started off the Thirty Years' War, which engulfed much of Europe, and is considered one of the most destructive wars in European history.

  • Girolamo Savonarola was burned to death. (1498) Savonarola was a religious fanatic who incited riots and mass burning of books, luxuries and "vanities" in several Italian cities. He was eventually excommunicated, and later executed.

  • The first version of the Java programming language was released. (1995) Java quickly became the programming language of choice for web page programming, and heavily influenced the PHP language.

  • Sergeant William Harvey Carney received the Medal of Honor. (1900) Carney was a soldier in the Civil War, and won the Medal of Honor for saving the Union flag during a fierce battle, despite the fact that he was severely wounded. His actions predate any other African-American Medal of Honor recipient, although he did not get his medal until nearly 40 years after the battle.

  • The Northwest Mounted Police were founded. (1873) The Northwest Mounted Police was one of the first police forces in the Northwest Territories — present day Alberta and Saskatchewan — and the predecessor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also known as the Mounties.

  • Douglas Fairbanks was born. (1883) Fairbanks was an incredibly popular early film star, along with his wife, Mary Pickford. The two founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin, and were also instrumental in founding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Discussion Comments


The names Bonnie and Clyde certainly sound familiar. Come to think of it, I do remember learning about them in school, even though it was pretty brief. Overall, I find their publicity to be the most interesting. It's almost as if they're cartoonish caricatures. This is especially considering their ties to the media.


Although I'm not too familiar with Douglas Fairbanks, it's interesting to read about his contributions with arts and sciences.

What intrigues me the most is how it really shows that many people from centuries ago (famous or not so famous) made some excellent contributions to the world.

Whether it's through media, film, or even science, they're all remembered even till this day.


I don't know if I would call this "recent", but I didn't know that Java was released as early as 1995. That's very interesting. Not only did I think it was introduced a lot earlier, but it shows how even in the 90's, technology hadn't reached its full form yet, as computers were still trying to find their place.

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