May 15, 2020
Day 136 of 366
May 15th is the 136th day of the year. It is the International Day of Families, a day proclaimed by the United Nations to reflect the importance the international community attaches to families. The day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic, and demographic processes affecting families.
It also provides a good day to remember that not all families are based on blood.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Chip Day, National Nylon Stocking Day, National Endangered Species Day, National Defense Transportation Day, National Pizza Party Day, National Bike to Work Day, and NASCAR Day. The last five of those events are typically observed on the third Friday in May.
Historical items of note:
- In 495 BC, a newly constructed temple in honor of the god Mercury was dedicated in ancient Rome on the Circus Maximus, between the Aventine and Palatine hills. To spite the senate and the consuls, the people awarded the dedication to a senior military officer, Marcus Laetorius.
- In 1252, Pope Innocent IV issued the papal bull ad extirpanda. It authorized, but also limited, the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.
- In 1536, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, stood trial in London on charges of treason, adultery, and incest. She was condemned to death by a specially-selected jury.
- In 1618, Johannes Kepler confirmed his discovery of the third law of planetary motion. He first discovered it on March 8th but initially rejected it after some initial calculations were made. Obviously, he changed his mind.
- In 1718, London-based lawyer James Puckle patented the world’s first machine gun.
- In 1776, the Fifth Virginia Convention instructed its Continental Congress delegation to propose a resolution of independence from Great Britain. This paved the way for the United States Declaration of Independence.
- In 1817, the first private mental health hospital in the United States opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason, but is now Friends Hospital.
- In 1856, novelist L. Frank Baum was born.
- In 1857, Scottish-American astronomer and academic Williamina Fleming was born.
- In 1859, French physicist, academic, and Nobel Prize laureate Pierre Curie was born.
- In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law that created the United States Bureau of Agriculture. It was later renamed the United States Department of Agriculture.
- In 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in New York.
- In 1890, short story writer, novelist, and essayist Katherine Anne Porter was born.
- In 1905, Las Vegas was founded when 110 acres were auctioned off. The land was part of what would later become downtown.
- In 1928, Walt Disney’s iconic character Mickey Mouse premiered in his first cartoon, Plane Crazy. It was a silent short sent to distributors, but it failed to gain any traction. Mickey’s first film with sound (and the first in wide release) was Steamboat Willie. Plane Crazy was later released with sound, becoming Mickey’s fourth film.
- In 1940, McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in San Bernardino, California.
- In 1949, astronaut Frank L. Culbertson Jr. was born.
- In 1958, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 3.
- In 1960, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 4.
- In 1963, the final Mercury mission was launched. Mercury-Atlas 9, also known as Faith 7, carried Gordon Cooper into orbit where he became the first American to spend more than a day in space, and the last American to go into space alone.
- In 1987, the Soviet Union launched the Polyus prototype orbital weapons platform, but it failed to reach orbit.
- In 2005, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
- In 2008, California became the second U.S. state after Massachusetts (in 2004) to legalize same-sex marriage. This was after the state’s own Supreme Court ruled a previous ban unconstitutional.
- In 2010, Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail, non-stop and unassisted, around the world solo.
May 15th is Peace Officers Memorial Day in the United States. It is an observance that pays tribute to the local, state, and federal peace officers who have died, or who have been disabled, in the line of duty. It is sponsored by the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and is implemented by the FOP Memorial Committee.
The holiday was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy on October 1, 1962. President Bill Clinton amended the law in 1994 with direction to fly flags in the country at half-staff.
Much of the holiday centers on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. The wall features the names of more than 21,183 law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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