On April 18, 1906, nearly 4,000 people died as a result of the San Francisco Earthquake and resulting fires.
By official proclamation of our nation’s governors, 17 April has been designated as “Ellis Island Family History Day.” Sponsored by The Statue of Liberty– Ellis Island Foundation, Inc, this annual day recognizes the achievements and contributions made to America by Ellis Island immigrants and their descendants. Historically, Apr 17 marks the day in 1907 when more immigrants were processed through the island than on any other day in its colorful history: 11,747 people. In addition, the Foundation has established the “Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards,” which are given annually to a select number of Ellis Island immigrants or their descendants who have made a significant contribution to the American experience.
Photo: Apr 16. Commemorates the Resurrection of Christ. Most joyous festival of the Christian year. The date of Easter, a movable feast, is derived from the lunar calendar: the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon on or after Mar 21— always between Mar 22 and Apr 25. The Council of Nicaea (ad 325) prescribed that Easter be celebrated on the Sunday after Passover, as that feast’s date had been established in Jesus’s time. After 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, Orthodox Christians continued to use the Julian calendar, so Easter can sometimes be as much as five weeks apart in the Western and Eastern churches.
The “unsinkable” luxury liner Titanic on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York, NY, struck an iceberg just before midnight Apr 14, and sank at 2: 27 AM, Apr 15. The Titanic had 2,224 persons aboard. Of these, more than 1,500 were lost. About 700 people were rescued from the icy waters off Newfoundland by the liner Carpathia, which reached the scene about two hours after the Titanic went down.
Photo: Alfred Butts, born 13 April 1899, was a jobless architect in the Depression when he invented the board game Scrabble. The game was just a fad for Butts’s friends until a Macy’s executive saw the game being played at a resort in 1952, and the world’s largest store began carrying it. Manufacturing of the game was turned over to Selchow & Righter when 35 workers were producing 6,000 sets a week. Butts received three cents per set for years. He said, “One-third went to taxes. I gave one-third away, and the other third enabled me to have an enjoyable life.” Butts was born at Poughkeepsie, NY. He died 4 April 1993, at Rhinebeck, NY.
On April 12, 1955, Dr. Jonas E. Salk announced that a polio vaccine developed was “safe, potent and effective.” Incidence of the dreaded infantile paralysis, or poliomyelitis, declined by 95 percent following introduction of preventive vaccines. The first mass innoculations of children with the Salk vaccine had begun in Pittsburgh, PA, 23 February 1954.
Apr 10, 1866. American diplomat Henry Bergh, angry at the widespread abuse of animals (cockfighting, whipping of cart horses, starving of working dogs and more) sought its end through the creation of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the New York State legislature. On this day, the charter was passed, and on Apr 19, 1866, the first animal cruelty laws were passed. Bergh based the formation of the ASPCA on Britain’s Royal Soceity for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that had been founded in 1840. “It is a moral question in all its aspects,” Bergh persuasively argued.
On 9 April 1865 at 1:30 PM General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander in chief of the Union Army, ending four years of civil war. The meeting took place in the house of Wilmer McLean at the village of Appomattox Court House, VA. Confederate soldiers were permitted to keep their horses and go free to their homes, while Confederate officers were allowed to retain their swords and sidearms as well. Grant wrote the terms of surrender. Formal surrender took place at the courthouse on 12 April. Death toll for the Civil War is estimated at 500,000 men.