On this date in history, two tragic events happened that resound with us today. In 1865 just days after the American Civil War ended and just weeks after he had given his 2nd Inaugural address to the nation, Abraham Lincoln and his wife went to Fords Theater in Washington DC to see a performance of “Our American Cousin”, a popular play of the day. During the performance, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a disgruntled Southerner, and fatally wounded. He died early the next day, April 15th.
Similarly the ocean liner RMS Titanic, supposedly “unsinkable”, sailed from Southhampton, England on April 12th for her maiden voyage. Late on April 14th she struck an iceberg and began to take on water. She slipped completely under the waves on the morning of April 15th, taking with her more than 1.500 of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew. Arrogance – fast speed in icy waters, and having only half of the necessary lifeboats for evacuation – exasperated the situation and resulted in massive loss of life.
There were a couple of other natural disasters on this date: The Bloody Sunday dust storm hit Oklahoma and Texas in 1935, displacing an estimated 300 thousand tons of topsoil, and contributing to the agricultural devastation of the area. In 1986 Bangladesh was struck by the largest ever hailstones – averaging 1 kilo (2.2 lbs each), resulting in 92 deaths.
There was some positive news for the date: Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush established the first abolition society in the US – the Society for the Relief of Free Negroea Unlawfully Held in Bondage – in Philadelphia where 17 of the original members were Quakers. In 1890 the Pan-American Union was founded by the International Conference of American States, in Washington DC. The first commercial motion picture house opened in New York City in 1894. And the Inaugural Monaco Grand Prix was held in 1929.
Join the world on this date was Anne Sullivan, the teacher and longtime companion of Helen Keller (1866); country music legend Loretta Lynn (1932); notable villain actor Robert Carlyle (Rumplestiltskin in Once Upon A Time 1961) and three stellar baseball player – Cincinnati Reds Pete Rose in 1941, and Atlanta Braves David Justice and Greg Maddox in 1966.
Leaving us was the great German-English composer George Frideric Handel (1759) most remembered for Messiah; American painter John Singer Sargeant (1925) and biologist and author Rachel Carson (1964, Silent Spring). Also going silent were a trio of singers – Burl Ives (1995), Don Ho and his ukelele (2007), and Percy Sledge (2015)