Jesse James - September 5, 1847
The story of Jesse James remains one of America's most cherished myths... and one of its most wrong-headed. Jesse James, so the legend goes, was a Western outlaw, though, in fact, he never went west; America's own Robin Hood, though he robbed from the poor as well as the rich, and kept it all for himself; and a gunfighter whose victims, in reality, were almost always unarmed.
Less heroic than brutal, James was in fact a product, from first to last, of the American Civil War; a Confederate partisan of expansive ambition, unbending politics and surprising cunning, who gladly helped invent his own valiant legend. In a life steeped in prolific violence and bloodshed, he met what was perhaps the most fitting end; like so many of his own victims, James himself was an unarmed man, shot in the back.
Marquis de Lafayette - September 6, 1757
A French military officer, Lafayette first learned of the American Revolution in 1775, and, as he wrote in his memoirs, "my heart was enlisted and I thought only of joining the colors". Join the colors he did, managing to travel to America and gain an appointment as a major general in the colonial army. He would later serve as aide-de-camp to none other than George Washington, and was instrumental in forcing the surrender of the British at Yorktown. Upon his return to France, he played a significant role in the French Revolution as well. His aristocratic title of "Marquis de Lafayette" spared acquaintances the task of referring to him by his real name...Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier.
Buddy Holly - September 7, 1936
Holly was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll. Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly was described as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll." His works and innovations inspired and influenced both his contemporaries and later musicians, notably The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.
September 3, 1783 - The Treaty of Paris is Signed
This treaty brought an end to the American Revolutionary war. The first of 10 articles in the treaty reads in part "His Brittanic Majesty (the king) acknowledges the said United States...to be free, sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof."
The Benjamin West painting shown here depicts the American delegation at the signing of the treaty (from left to right, John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin). The unfinished painting was meant to include the British delegation as well...but they refused to pose.
September 5, 1975 - President Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme, an associate and follower of Charles Manson, told police that she went to Sacramento's Capitol Park on the morning of September 5, 1975 to plead with President Gerald Ford about the plight of California redwood trees. She underscored her pleas by pointing a .45 Colt semi-automatic pistol at Ford, and was immediately restrained by Secret Service agents before any shots were fired. She would be sentenced to life in prison after a trial in which she refused to cooperate with her own defense attorneys. When the prosecutor recommended severe punishment because Fromme was, in his words, "full of hate and violence", Fromme threw an apple at him, hitting him in the face and knocking off his glasses.
Seventeen days after Fromme was arrested, Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate Ford outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, firing a shot that injured an innocent bystander.
September 7, 1998 - Google Founded
Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were students at Stanford University. Roughly six years later Google's IPO (initial public offering) raised a total of $1.67 billion.
Google has a tradition of creating April Fool's Day jokes—in 2002, they claimed that pigeons were the secret behind their growing search engine. In 2004, they featured Google Lunar, which claimed to feature jobs on the moon, and in 2005, a fictitious brain-boosting drink, termed Google Gulp was announced. OK, so they're not really funny jokes - but these guys aren't comedians, they're computer geeks. And billionaires.
September 8, 1900 - Galveston Hurricane
The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is to date the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States. The storm and resulting tidal wave claimed over 8,000 lives. By contrast, Hurricane Katrina resulted in approximately 1,800 deaths. Forecasting technology was primitive in those days, and American forecasters had a policy of ignoring or downplaying warnings from Cuba, even though the island generally experiences storms well before the U.S. Though warnings eventually went out, many people could not get to higher ground in time. As local forecaster Isaac Cline wrote afterwards, "Where 20,000 people lived on [Sept.] 8th not a house remained on the 9th, and who occupied the houses may, in many instances, never be known."
September 8, 1974 - Nixon Pardoned
On September 8, 1974, only days after Richard Nixon had resigned the Presidency in the wake of the Watergate break-in and cover-up, President Gerald R. Ford gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he may have committed against the United States while President. In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family's situation "is a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must."
Many believe the controversy over the pardon was a major reason for Ford's loss in the subsequent 1976 election. The New York Times editorialized that the pardon was "a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" that destroyed the new president's credibility. Times and feelings would change, however. In 2001, Senator Ted Kennedy awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon. Kennedy said that while he had initially been opposed to the pardon, history had since proved that it was the correct decision.