On this day in history, October 15th…
- 1783: The Montgolfier brothers make the world’s first hot air balloon ascent with a human inside the basket attached to the balloon. The first human aboard was Étienne Montgolfier (when testing before the public demonstration), then the second human, Pilâtre de Rozier, ascended 80 ft. at the public demonstration. About a month later, on November 21, they would launch another balloon, this time untethered with two men aboard, de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes. You can read more about this here: Two Frenchmen Make the World’s First Untethered Manned Hot Air Balloon Flight
- 1793: Former Queen of France Marie-Antoinette is unjustly sentenced to death being accused, among other things, of incest with her son, to which she initially refuse to respond to, but when asked why she wasn’t defending herself on that charge, stated, “If I have not replied, it is because Nature itself refuses to respond to such a charge laid against a mother.” Other charges leveled against her were wishing to bathe in the blood of her political enemies; orchestrating and participating in orgies; plotting to kill the Duke of Orléans; influencing the King’s decisions in such a way as to hurt France and benefit Austria; defrauding jewelers; stealing money from the treasury of France and giving it to Joseph II of Austria, her brother… the list goes on and on. Despite the lack of evidence of pretty much every charge laid against her, she was sentenced to death, as had been determined before the trial anyways. You can read more about the extremely sad life of Marie-Antoinette here: Marie Antoinette Never Said “Let Them Eat Cake”
- 1863: The first submarine to successfully sink a ship, the H.L. Hunley, itself sinks during a test, killing all aboard, including its creator, Horace L. Hunley. The 40 ft. long submarine had also been tested once before, killing all but two of the crew members. In this instance, one of the eight required crew members got caught in the machinery used to manually turn the propeller causing the submarine to dive while the hatch was still open. After this, Hunley himself decided to pilot the craft, as few others were willing to go aboard the ship. He and his seven crew members took the ship out and dived… and never came back up. Once again the ship was raised and the bodies removed. A third crew was found and on February 17th, 1864, the sub was successfully used to sink the U.S.S. Housatanic in Charleston Harbor by attaching a torpedo to the craft. Unfortunately, on the way back to Charleston, the sub sank, killing all aboard. This time the sub was left there until 2000 when it was raised, cleaned up, and placed in a museum in Charleston.
- 1860: Grace Bedell, an 11 year old girl from New York, writes a letter to then presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln suggesting that he would be more attractive and get more votes if he had a beard, “…if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” In Lincoln’s response, he wrote “…As to the whiskers have never worn any do you not think people would call it a silly affection if I were to begin it now?“ Despite not saying he would grow a beard, within weeks of receiving her letter, Lincoln was sporting a beard. He later met Bedell and, according to her this meeting went as such, “Gracie,’ he said, ‘look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’ Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.”
- 1888: A letter supposedly from Jack the Ripper, “From Hell”, is received by law enforcement. The letter stated, “From Hell: Mr Lusk Sor I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer. signed Catch me when you Can Mishter Lusk” Unlike many other letters at the time, this one was considered to possibly be from Jack the Ripper, partially because it really did come with a piece of a human kidney (one of the victim’s, Catherine Eddowes, had a kidney missing) and also because the author didn’t sign it with “Jack the Ripper” as nearly all of the fake letters did.
- 2007: Coming off what would end up being an MVP season, Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees agree on a record setting 10 year $275 million contract after A-Rod opted out of his previous record setting 10 year $252 million deal signed in 2000.