World Trade Center, then the world’s tallest building, opens in New York City

Year
1973
Month Day
April 04

The “Twin Towers” of the World Trade Center officially open in New York City. The buildings replaced the Empire State Building as the world’s tallest building. Though they would only hold that title for a year, they remained a dominant feature of the city’s skyline and were recognizable the world over long before they were destroyed in a terrorist attack in 2001.

Planning, designing and clearing space for the World Trade Center took over a decade. The New York State Legislature originally approved the idea in 1943, but concrete plans did not materialize until the 1960s. The deal that created the new complex, of which the Twin Towers would be the centerpiece, also included the creation of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, or PATH, to operate the trains which entered Manhattan from New Jersey on what was to become the grounds of the WTC. Architect Minoru Yamasaki drew inspiration from Arabic architecture for the towers’ design. In order to efficiently move people up and down the 110-story towers, Yamasaki and his team developed the concept of express elevators—based on the New York City Subway’s system of express and local trains—that traveled directly to “sky lobbies” on the 44 and 78 floor, from which “local” elevators ran to neighboring floors. The first tenants moved into the North Tower in December of 1970, with the official opening of both buildings taking place over two years later.

The towers’ construction ended the Empire State Building’s 41-year run as the tallest building in the world. They were replaced by Chicago’s Sears Tower the following year, an indication of the rising trend of supertall construction. The World Trade Center dramatically altered the New York skyline and the cityscape of Lower Manhattan. As such, they were often used as a shorthand for the area in visual media, and were frequently included in establishing shots of films set in New York. Though most of the World Trade Center was occupied by office space, the Top of the World Observation Deck on the South Tower became a popular tourist destination, as did the North Tower’s Windows on the World restaurant, which featured its own wine school.

The towers were first targeted by terrorists in 1993, when a bomb exploded in the garage under the North Tower, killing six and injuring over 1,000. The Twin Towers were destroyed, and were the site of the vast majorities of the casualties, on September 11, 2001, a final chapter that has since overshadowed the rest of the World Trade Center’s story. The building that replaced them, One World Trade Center, was completed in 2014 and is currently the seventh-tallest building in the world.

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Labor organizer and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez begins hunger strike

Year
1972
Month Day
May 01

On May 1, 1972, Mexican-American labor organizer and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez begins a hunger strike. The strike, which he undertook in opposition to an Arizona law severely restricting farm workers’ ability to organize, lasted 24 days and drew national attention to the suffering of itinerant farm workers in the Southwest.

A fervent admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, Chavez had undertaken several hunger strikes before. As a co-founder of the United Farm Workers, he and his strikes had played important roles in many major labor actions, including the five-year Delano Grape Strike in California. In response to the wave of organizing that had swept the region, Arizona’s legislature passed a bill that constricted workers’ rights to organize, outlawed secondary boycotts, and allowed growers to obtain a restraining order to prevent strikes during the harvest. Despite an outcry from farm workers and Chavez’s request that they meet to discuss the bill, Governor Jack Williams immediately signed it into law. Later that day, Chavez began his fast.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

An increasingly emaciated Chavez appeared regularly at mass, attended by his supporters and others from the civil rights movement. Coretta Scott King, whose husband Martin Luther King, Jr. had supported Chavez in his previous strikes, attended one such mass, as did Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern. Chavez referred to the strike as “a fast of sacrifice,” repeatedly reminding observers that his suffering was meant to represent the daily suffering of farm workers. Finally, after 24 days, he ended his fast at a memorial mass for Bobby Kennedy, who had thrown his political support behind Chavez’s cause in the years prior to his 1968 assassination. The following year, Chavez and the UFW organized another major agricultural strike, the Lettuce Growers Strike, and in1975 California passed a landmark law affirming workers’ rights to boycott and to collective bargaining.

READ MORE: Cesar Chavez: His Life and Legacy

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Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter sign accords


Year
1979
Month Day
January 29

On January 29, 1979, Deng Xiaoping, deputy premier of China, meets President Jimmy Carter, and together they sign historic new accords that reverse decades of U.S. opposition to the People’s Republic of China.

Deng Xiaoping lived out a full and complete transformation of China. The son of a landowner, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1920 and participated in Mao Zedong’s Long March in 1934. In 1945, he was appointed to the Party Central Committee and, with the 1949 victory of the communists in the Chinese Civil War, became the regional party leader of southwestern China. Called to Beijing as deputy premier in 1952, he rose rapidly, became general secretary of the CCP in 1954, and a member of the ruling Political Bureau in 1955.

A major policy maker, he advocated individualism and material incentives in China’s attempt to modernize its economy, which often brought him into conflict with Mao and his orthodox communist beliefs. With the launch of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Deng was attacked as a capitalist and removed from high party and government posts. He disappeared from public view and worked in a tractor factory, but in 1973 was reinstated by Premier Zhou Enlai, who again made him deputy premier. When Zhou fell ill in 1975, Deng became the effective leader of China.

In January 1976, Zhou died, and in the subsequent power struggle Deng was purged by the “Gang of Four”–strict Maoists who had come to power in the Cultural Revolution. In September, however, Mao Zedong died, and Deng was rehabilitated after the Gang of Four fell from power. He resumed his post as deputy premier, often overshadowing Premier Hua Guofeng.

Deng sought to open China to foreign investment and create closer ties with the West. In January 1979, he signed accords with President Jimmy Carter, and later that year the United States granted full diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China.

In 1981, Deng strengthened his position by replacing Hua Guofeng with his protege, Hu Yaobang, and together the men instituted widespread economic reforms in China. The reforms were based on capitalist models, such as the decentralization of various industries, material incentives as the reward for economic success, and the creation of a skilled and well-educated financial elite. As chief adviser to a series of successors, he continued to be the main policy maker in China during the 1980s.

Under Deng, China’s economy rapidly grew, and citizens enjoyed expanded personal, economic, and cultural freedoms. Political freedoms were still greatly restricted, however, and China continued as an authoritative one-party state. In 1989, Deng hesitantly supported the government crackdown on the democratic demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Later that year, he resigned his last party post but continued to be an influential adviser to the Chinese government until his death in 1997.

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Shah flees Iran


Year
1979
Month Day
January 16

Faced with an army mutiny and violent demonstrations against his rule, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the leader of Iran since 1941, is forced to flee the country. Fourteen days later, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the Islamic revolution, returned after 15 years of exile and took control of Iran.

In 1941, British and Soviet troops occupied Iran, and the first Pahlavi shah, who they regarded with suspicion, was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza. The new shah promised to act as a constitutional monarch but often meddled in the elected government’s affairs. After a Communist plot against him was thwarted in 1949, he took on even more powers. However, in the early 1950s, the shah was eclipsed by Mohammad Mosaddeq, a zealous Iranian nationalist who convinced the Parliament to nationalize Britain’s extensive oil interests in Iran. Mohammad Reza, who maintained close relations with Britain and the United States, opposed the decision. Nevertheless, he was forced in 1951 to appoint Mosaddeq premier, and two years of tension followed.

In August 1953, Mohammad Reza attempted to dismiss Mosaddeq, but the premier’s popular support was so great that the shah himself was forced out of Iran. A few days later, British and U.S. intelligence agents orchestrated a stunning coup d’etat against Mosaddeq, and the shah returned to take power as the sole leader of Iran. He repealed Mosaddeq’s legislation and became a close Cold War ally of the United States in the Middle East.

In 1963, the shah launched his “White Revolution,” a broad government program that included land reform, infrastructure development, voting rights for women, and the reduction of illiteracy. Although these programs were applauded by many in Iran, Islamic leaders were critical of what they saw as the westernization of Iran. Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shiite cleric, was particularly vocal in his criticism and called for the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of an Islamic state. In 1964, Khomeini was exiled and settled across the border in Iraq, where he sent radio messages to incite his supporters.

The shah saw himself foremost as a Persian king and in 1971 held an extravagant celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the pre-Islamic Persian monarchy. In 1976, he formally replaced the Islamic calendar with a Persian calendar. Religious discontent grew, and the shah became more repressive, using his brutal secret police force to suppress opposition. This alienated students and intellectuals in Iran, and support for Khomeini grew. Discontent was also rampant in the poor and middle classes, who felt that the economic developments of the White Revolution had only benefited the ruling elite. In 1978, anti-shah demonstrations broke out in Iran’s major cities.

On September 8, 1978, the shah’s security force fired on a large group of demonstrators, killing hundreds and wounding thousands. Two months later, thousands took to the streets of Tehran, rioting and destroying symbols of westernization, such as banks and liquor stores. Khomeini called for the shah’s immediate overthrow, and on December 11 a group of soldiers mutinied and attacked the shah’s security officers. With that, his regime collapsed and the shah fled.

The shah traveled to several countries before entering the United States in October 1979 for medical treatment of his cancer. In Tehran, Islamic militants responded on November 4 by storming the U.S. embassy and taking the staff hostage. With the approval of Khomeini, the militants demanded the return of the shah to Iran to stand trial for his crimes. The United States refused to negotiate, and 52 American hostages were held for 444 days. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi died in Egypt in July 1980. 

READ MORE: U.S.-Iran Tensions: From Political Coup to Hostage Crisis to Drone Strikes

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Tito is made president of Yugoslavia for life

Year
1963
Month Day
April 07

On April 7, 1963, a new Yugoslav constitution proclaims Tito the president for life of the newly named Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Formerly known as Josip Broz, Tito was born to a large peasant family in Croatia in 1892. At that time, Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in 1913 Broz was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army. After the outbreak of World War I, he fought against Serbia and in 1915 was sent to the Russian front, where he was captured. In the prisoner-of-war camp, he converted to Bolshevism and in 1917 participated in the Russian Revolution. He fought in the Red Guard during the Russian Civil War and in 1920 returned to Croatia, which had been incorporated into the multinational but Serb-dominated kingdom of Yugoslavia.

He joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) and was an effective organizer before his arrest as a political agitator in 1928. Released from prison in 1934, he rapidly rose in the ranks of the CPY and took the name Tito, which was a pseudonym he used in underground Party work. He went to the USSR to work with Comintern–the Soviet-led international Communist organization–and in 1937-38 survived Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s purge of the CPY leadership. In 1939, Tito became secretary-general of the CPY.

In 1941, Axis forces invaded and occupied Yugoslavia, and Tito and his communist partisans emerged as the leaders of the anti-Nazi resistance. In 1944, Soviet forces liberated Yugoslavia, and in March 1945 Marshal Tito was installed as head of a new federal Yugoslav government. Non-communists were purged from the government, and in November 1945 Tito was elected Yugoslav premier in an election limited to candidates from the communist-dominated National Liberation Front. The same month, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, comprising the Balkan republics of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Macedonia, was proclaimed under a new constitution.

Although the Yugoslav republics were granted autonomy over some of their affairs, Tito held the ultimate power and ruled dictatorially, suppressing opposition to his rule. He soon came into conflict with Moscow, which disapproved of his independent style, especially in foreign affairs, and in early 1948 Joseph Stalin attempted to purge the Yugoslav leadership. Tito maintained control, and later in 1948 the CPY was expelled from Cominform, the confederation of Eastern European communist parties. Isolated from the USSR and its satellites, Yugoslavia was courted by the West, which offered aid and military assistance, including an informal association with NATO. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Yugoslav-Soviet relations gradually improved, but Tito was critical of the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and attempted to develop common policies with countries unaligned with the United States or the USSR, such as Egypt and India.

In 1953, Tito was elected Yugoslav president and was repeatedly re-elected until 1963, when his term was made unlimited. Although he used his secret police to purge political opponents, the average Yugoslavian enjoyed more freedoms than the inhabitants of any other communist country in Eastern Europe. Tito died in May 1980, just a few days before his 88th birthday.

After the collapse of communism in 1989, ethnic tensions resurfaced, and in 1991 the Yugoslav federation broke apart, leaving only Serbia and Montenegro remaining in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1992, civil war erupted over Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s attempts to keep ethnically Serbian areas in other republics under Yugoslav rule. In March 1999, NATO began airstrikes against the Milosevic regime in an attempt to end genocide in Kosovo and enforce the area’s autonomy. In October 2000, Milosevic was ousted in a popular revolution. He was then arrested and charged with crimes against humanity and genocide. He died on March 11, 2006, in prison in the Hague, before his trial ended.

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Kidnapped grandson of Getty billionaire found


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Year
1973
Month Day
December 15

Jean Paul Getty III, the grandson of American billionaire J. Paul Getty, is found alive near Naples, five months after his kidnapping by an Italian gang. J. Paul Getty, who became the richest man in the world in 1957, had initially refused to pay his 16-year-old grandson’s $17 million ransom but finally agreed to cooperate after the boy’s severed right ear was sent to a newspaper in Rome. He eventually secured his grandson’s release by paying just $2.7 million, the maximum amount that he claimed he was able to raise.

Born in Minneapolis in 1892, Getty inherited a small oil company from his father. Through his autocratic rule and skillful manipulation of the stock market, Getty soon shaped Getty Oil into a massive financial empire. By 1968, Getty’s fortune exceeded $1 billion. However, the world’s wealthiest man did not live an ideal life. He is remembered as an eccentric billionaire who married and divorced five times and had serious relationship problems with most of his five sons.

In the final 25 years of his life, Getty lived near London, England, in an estate surrounded by double barbed-wire fences and protected by plainclothes guards and more than 20 German shepherd attack dogs. He was also a notorious miser–his installation of a payphone for guests in his English mansion is a famous example. Three years after failing to pay his grandson’s ransom in a timely manner, J. Paul Getty died at the age of 83.

His children and former wives fought bitterly over the inheritance of his fortune in court, but ultimately the bulk of his billions went to the J. Paul Getty Museum “for the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge.” Today, the Getty Museum, based in Los Angeles, is the most richly endowed museum on earth.

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China invades Vietnam


Year
1979
Month Day
February 17

In response to the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, China launches an invasion of Vietnam.

Tensions between Vietnam and China increased dramatically after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Attempting to expand its influence, Vietnam established a military presence in Laos; strengthened its ties with China’s rival, the Soviet Union; and toppled the Cambodian regime of Pol Pot in 1979. Just over a month later, Chinese forces invaded, but were repulsed in nine days of bloody and bitter fighting. Tensions between China and Vietnam remained high throughout the next decade, and much of Vietnam’s scarce resources were allocated to protecting its border with China and its interests in Cambodia.

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The Beatles arrive in New York


Year
1964
Month Day
February 07

On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York’s Kennedy Airport—and “Beatlemania” arrives. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” At Kennedy, the “Fab Four”—dressed in mod suits and sporting their trademark pudding bowl haircuts—were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when the boys stepped off their plane and onto American soil.

Two days later, Paul McCartney, age 21, Ringo Starr, 23, John Lennon, 23, and George Harrison, 20, made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular television variety show. Although it was difficult to hear the performance over the screams of teenage girls in the studio audience, an estimated 73 million U.S. television viewers, or about 40 percent of the U.S. population, tuned in to watch. Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month. The group made their first public concert appearance in the United States on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C., and 20,000 fans attended. The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the venerable music hall because of fan hysteria. On February 22, the Beatles returned to England.

The Beatles’ first American tour left a major imprint in the nation’s cultural memory. With American youth poised to break away from the culturally rigid landscape of the 1950s, the Beatles, with their exuberant music and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift. Their singles and albums sold millions of records, and at one point in April 1964 all five best-selling U.S. singles were Beatles songs. By the time the Beatles first feature-film, A Hard Day’s Night, was released in August, Beatlemania was epidemic the world over. Later that month, the four boys from Liverpool returned to the United States for their second tour and played to sold-out arenas across the country.

Later, the Beatles gave up touring to concentrate on their innovative studio recordings, such as 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, a psychedelic concept album that is regarded as a masterpiece of popular music. The Beatles’ music remained relevant to youth throughout the great cultural shifts of the 1960s, and critics of all ages acknowledged the songwriting genius of the Lennon-McCartney team. In 1970, the Beatles disbanded, leaving a legacy of 18 albums and 30 Top 10 U.S. singles.

During the next decade, all four Beatles pursued solo careers, with varying success. Lennon, the most outspoken and controversial Beatle, was shot to death by a deranged fan outside his New York apartment building in 1980. McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997 for his contribution to British culture. In November 2001, George Harrison succumbed to cancer. Ringo Starr was knighted himself for “services to music” in 2018.

READ MORE: When Beatlemania Swept the United States

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Business magnate and famed aviator Howard Hughes dies

Year
1976
Month Day
April 05

Howard Robard Hughes, one of the richest men to emerge from the American West during the 20th century, dies while flying from Acapulco to Houston.

Born in Houston, Texas, in 1905, Hughes inherited an estate of nearly a million dollars when his father died in 1923. Hughes’ father also left him the business that had created this fortune, the Hughes Tool Company, which controlled the rights to a new oil drill technology that was in high demand. The young Hughes quickly began to expand his business empire into new fields. In 1926, he moved to Hollywood, where he became involved in the rapidly growing movie industry. He produced several popular films, including Hell’s Angels, Scarface and The Outlaw.

Fascinated with the new technology of airplanes, Hughes also invested heavily in the burgeoning West Coast aviation industry. With some training in engineering from the California Institute of Technology and the Rice Institute of Technology, Hughes designed his own aircraft and then had his Hughes Aircraft Company build it. In 1935, he piloted one of his airplanes to a new world-speed record of 352.46 mph. His reputation as an aircraft designer and builder suffered after an ill-fated WWII government-sponsored project to build an immense plane that Hughes claimed would be able to transport 750 passengers. Nicknamed the Spruce Goose, Hughes’ monstrosity flew only once: a one-mile hop on November 2, 1947.

Never an extrovert, Hughes became increasingly reclusive after 1950. Operating through managers who rarely saw him in person, he bought up vast tracts of real estate in California, Arizona, and Nevada that skyrocketed in value. In 1967, he became involved in the Nevada gambling industry when he purchased the famous Desert Inn Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Nevada gaming authorities welcomed Hughes’ involvement because it counteracted the popular image that the Mafia dominated the gambling industry. By the early 1970s, Hughes had become the largest single landholder in Nevada, and with around 8,000 Nevada residents on his payroll, Hughes was also the state’s largest employer.

Although the rumors of Hughes’ bizarre behavior have been exaggerated—in part due to a fraudulent memoir published in 1971—in his final years the billionaire became even more obsessed with privacy. He continually moved between his residences in Las Vegas, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, Canada, England and Mexico. Other than a few male aides, almost nobody saw Hughes, and he sometimes worked for days at a stretch in a black-curtained room without sleeping.

Emaciated and deranged from too little food and too many drugs, Hughes finally became so ill that his aides decided that he needed medical treatment. He died in his airplane en route from Acapulco to Houston at the age of 70.

READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About Howard Hughes

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Grizzly bear is classified as a “threatened” species

Year
1975
Month Day
May 25

In 1975, the grizzly bear–once the undisputed king of the western wilderness–is given federal protection as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Before the Anglo-Americans began invading their territory, the grizzly bear inhabited most of the country west of the Mississippi from Mexico north to the Arctic Circle. Its only serious competitors for food were the Native Americans, who considered it a sacred animal-although they did hunt the bear as a test of strength and its long claws were prized symbols of status.

Because of the grizzly’s fearsome size and aggressive nature, most early European explorers of the West noted their encounters with the animal. During their expedition to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark encountered many of the bears and were awed by their impressive speed and power. On July 1, 1805, while the expedition was making the slow portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri River in Montana, Lewis wrote in his journal that grizzlies were all around their camp. “We have therefore determined to beat up their quarters tomorrow,” he continued, “and kill them or drive them from their haunts about this place.”

READ MORE: Lewis and Clark’s Travels Included Dozens of Astonishing Animal Encounters

Because of such hunting and the general destruction of their habitat, the grizzly began to disappear in concert with the settlement of the West. California, which is estimated to have once been home to 10,000 grizzlies and placed the animal’s image on its state flag, no longer had any of the bears by 1924. During subsequent decades, grizzlies gradually disappeared from their native homes in Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, the Dakotas, and probably Colorado and Washington. Outside of Alaska, by the 1970s small populations of bears remained only in a few isolated wilderness areas and national parks in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

In a last ditch effort to halt the decline, Congress designated the grizzly a threatened species on this day in 1975. Protected from hunting and trapping, grizzly populations have slowly begun to recover. However, there are still probably fewer than 1,000 grizzlies in the lower 48 states today, nearly half of them in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Recently, plans to reintroduce the species into two wilderness areas in Idaho and Washington have met with controversy. The future of the grizzly bear will depend on human willingness to share their habitats with the bears and set aside areas of wilderness large enough for them to survive.

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