1 million people attend funeral of Mao Zedong

Year
1976
Month Day
September 18

More than one million people gather at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for the funeral of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and chairman of the People’s Republic of China since 1949.

Mao, who died on September 9, 1976, at the age of 82, was born on December 26, 1893, to a peasant family in the Hunan province of central China. Trained to be a teacher, he helped found the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. After they claimed victory in a civil war with the nationalist party following WWII, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China and became its leader.

During an eight-day mourning period after his death, more than 1 million people paid their respects, as Mao’s body, in a flag-draped coffin, lay in state. At the start of the 30-minute public funeral in Tiananmen Square, a three-minute moment of silence was observed in honor of the leader, with reports that nearly all of China’s 800 million residents stood in silent tribute.

The ceremony included music from an army band that played a funeral march, China’s national anthem and the Communist “Internationale” and was televised live to the nation, which was a Chinese broadcast first. No foreign leaders were allowed to attend the service or the mourning period.

Hua Guofeng, China premier and Communist party first vice chairman who served as Mao’s immediate successor, delivered the eulogy. “It was under Chairman Mao’s leadership that the disaster-plagued Chinese nation rose to its feet,” he said. “The Chinese people love, trust and esteem Chairman Mao from the bottom of their hearts.” 

READ MORE: What Was Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution? 

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Patty Hearst captured by police

Year
1975
Month Day
September 18

Newspaper heiress and wanted fugitive Patty Hearst is captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery.

On February 4, 1974, Patricia Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California, by two black men and a white woman, all three of whom were armed. Her fiancé, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to help. Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she was put in the trunk of a car. Neighbors who came out into the street were forced to take cover after the kidnappers fired their guns to cover their escape.

Three days later, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a small U.S. leftist group, announced in a letter to a Berkeley radio station that it was holding Hearst as a “prisoner of war.” Four days later, the SLA demanded that the Hearst family give $70 in foodstuffs to every needy person from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles. This done, said the SLA, negotiations would begin for the return of Patricia Hearst. Randolph Hearst hesitantly gave away some $2 million worth of food. The SLA then called this inadequate and asked for $4 million more. The Hearst Corporation said it would donate the additional sum if the girl was released unharmed.

In April, however, the situation changed dramatically when Patty Hearst declared, in a tape sent to the authorities, that she was joining the SLA of her own free will. Later that month, a surveillance camera took a photo of her participating in an armed robbery of a San Francisco bank, and she was also spotted during the robbery of a Los Angeles store.

On May 17, police raided the SLA’s secret headquarters in Los Angeles, killing six of the group’s nine known members. Among the dead was the SLA’s leader, Donald DeFreeze, an African American ex-convict who called himself General Field Marshal Cinque. Patty Hearst and two other SLA members wanted for the April bank robbery were not on the premises.

Finally, on September 18, 1975, after crisscrossing the country with her captors—or conspirators—for more than a year, Hearst, or “Tania,” as she called herself, was captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery. Despite her later claim that she had been brainwashed by the SLA, she was convicted on March 20, 1976, and sentenced to seven years in prison. Her prison sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter and she was released in February 1979. She later married her bodyguard. In 2001, she received a full pardon from President Bill Clinton.

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Anne Hutchinson arrives in the New World

Year
1634
Month Day
September 18

Anne Hutchinson, an Englishwoman who would become an outspoken religious thinker in the American colonies, arrives at the Massachusetts Bay Colony with her family.

She settled in Cambridge and began organizing meetings of Boston women in her home, leading them in discussions of recent sermons and religious issues. Soon ministers and magistrates began attending her sessions as well. Hutchinson preached that faith alone was sufficient for salvation, and therefore that individuals had no need for the church or church law. By 1637, her influence had become so great that she was brought to trial and found guilty of heresy against Puritan orthodoxy. Banished from Massachusetts, she led a group of 70 followers to Rhode Island–Roger Williams’ colony based on religious freedom–and established a settlement on the island of Aquidneck.

After the death of her husband in 1642, she settled near present-day Pelham Bay, New York, on the Long Island Sound. In 1643, she and all but one of her children were massacred in a Native American attack. She is recognized as the first notable woman religious leader in the American colonies.

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George Washington lays the Capitol cornerstone

Year
1793
Month Day
September 18

On September 18, 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.

In 1800, Congress moved into the Capitol’s north wing. In 1807, the House of Representatives moved into the building’s south wing, which was finished in 1811. During the War of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C., and set fire to the Capitol on August 24, 1814. A rainstorm saved the building from total destruction. Congress met in nearby temporary quarters from 1815 to 1819. In the early 1850s, work began to expand the Capitol to accommodate the growing number of Congressmen. In 1861, construction was temporarily halted while the Capitol was used by Union troops as a hospital and barracks. Following the war, expansions and modern upgrades to the building continued into the next century.

Today, the Capitol, which is visited by 3 million to 5 million people each year, has 540 rooms and covers a ground area of about four acres.

READ MORE: 8 Forgotten Capitals of the United States

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Jimmy Carter files report on UFO sighting

Year
1973
Month Day
September 18

Future President Jimmy Carter files a report with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) on September 18, 1973, claiming he had seen an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) in October 1969.

During the presidential campaign of 1976, Democratic challenger Carter was forthcoming about his belief that he had seen a UFO. He described waiting outside for a Lion’s Club Meeting in Leary, Georgia, to begin, at about 7:30 p.m., when he spotted what he called “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen” in the sky. Carter, as well as 10 to 12 other people who witnessed the same event, described the object as “very bright [with] changing colors and about the size of the moon.” Carter reported that “the object hovered about 30 degrees above the horizon and moved in toward the earth and away before disappearing into the distance.” He later told a reporter that, after the experience, he vowed never again to ridicule anyone who claimed to have seen a UFO.

During the presidential campaign of 1976, Carter promised that, if elected president, he would encourage the government release “every piece of information” about UFOs available to the public and to scientists. After winning the presidency, though, Carter backed away from this pledge, saying that the release of some information might have “defense implications” and pose a threat to national security.

CHECK OUT: UFO Sightings Taken Seriously by the U.S. Government

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The struggling Donner Party sends ahead to California for food

Year
1846
Month Day
September 18

Weeks behind schedule and the massive Sierra Nevada mountains still to be crossed, on September 18, 1846, the members of the ill-fated Donner Party realize they are running short of supplies and send two men ahead to California to bring back food.

The group of 89 emigrants had begun their western trek earlier that summer in Springfield, Illinois, under the leadership of the brothers Jacob and George Donner. Unfortunately, the Donner brothers had recently read The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California, the imaginative creation of an irresponsible author-adventurer named Lansford Hastings, who wanted to encourage more overland emigrants to travel to the Sacramento Valley of California. The Donners innocently accepted Hastings’ claim that a shorter route he had blazed to California would cut weeks off the usual trip and agreed to place the fate of the wagon train in his hands once they reached Fort Bridger, Wyoming. From that point forward, the men, women, and children of the Donner Party were in trouble.

Though the so-called Hastings Cutoff was indeed shorter than the usual route, Hastings’ glowing descriptions of his trail irresponsibly downplayed its many difficulties, as the Donner party soon discovered. After following a boulder-strewn and nearly impassable route over the Wasatch Range in Utah, the party embarked on an arduous six-day trek across the desert-a journey that Hastings had promised would take only two days. Lightening their loads by abandoning chairs, family heirlooms, wagons, and livestock to be swallowed up by the blazing sands, the emigrants struggled onward towards the Sierra Nevada.

A month after the two men had left for California, one returned with the desperately needed provisions as well as two Indian guides to help lead the party on the final stage of the trip through the Sierras. But by then it was already late October. Hastings’ “shortcut” had cost the Donner group so much time that they now risked being trapped in the high mountains if an early snowstorm chanced to fall. Unfortunately for the luckless emigrants, just such a snowstorm arrived on the night of October 28. The next day the Donner party was snowbound in the Sierras.

READ MORE: How the Donner Party Was Doomed By a Disastrous Shortcut

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Doris Day wins lawsuit

Year
1974
Month Day
September 18

On September 18, 1974, actress Doris Day wins a $22.8 million malpractice suit against her former lawyer.

Day, one of the biggest box office draws of the 1950s and ’60s, had allowed her third husband, Martin Melcher, to handle her finances. After his death in 1968, she discovered that her $20 million in life savings had disappeared, and sued her lawyer for mismanagement. She was not able to recover the full value of the award, however, and settling for $6 million.

Day was born in Cincinnati in 1922. Though she was a promising dancer as a teenager, a car accident ended her dancing days and turned her toward music instead. She sang and recorded with several bands. In 1948, she was pulled in at the last minute to replace singer/actress Betty Hutton in Romance on the High Seas (1948), Day’s first film. Audiences adored her, and she went on to star in dozens of other films, including April in Paris (1952), Calamity Jane (1953), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and The Pajama Game (1957). She made her last film in 1968, With Six, You Get Eggroll. After her husband’s death, she began work on a television series, The Doris Day Show (1968-1973) and also appeared in television specials.

Day was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her outstanding contribution to entertainment by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the Golden Globe Awards in 1989. She died on May 13, 2019. 

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Hundreds are accidentally poisoned in Brazil

Year
1987
Month Day
September 18

On September 18, 1987, cesium-137 is removed from an abandoned cancer-therapy machine in Brazil. Hundreds of people were eventually poisoned by radiation from the substance, highlighting the danger that even relatively small amounts of radiation can pose.

In 1985, the Goiania Institute of Radiotherapy moved to a new location and left behind an obsolete Cesium-137 teletherapy unit in their abandoned headquarters. The institute failed to inform the authorities of the existence of the outdated device and the machine sat in the building in downtown Goiania, 600 miles from Sao Paulo, for over a year before two criminally enterprising men removed the machine.

The men sold it to a local junkyard on September 13. Five days later, workers at the junkyard dismantled the machine, releasing the Cesium-137 that was still inside. Fascinated by the glowing blue stone and completely unaware of its dangers, they distributed pieces to friends, relatives and neighbors. The cesium was spread around so much that contamination was later found 100 miles away.

Days later, the junkyard owner’s wife began noticing that her friends and relatives were getting sick. When she sought medical assistance, doctors found that they were suffering from acute radiation poisoning. Four people eventually died from exposure, including one child. Scores were hospitalized and more than 100,000 people in the city had to be monitored for contamination.

More than 40 homes in the city were found to have high levels of contamination and had to be demolished. The after-effects were also serious. Many of the citizens suffered psychologically from their fear of contamination. In fact, fear was so widespread that other cities shunned the people and products of Goiania following the incident.

Following this disaster, Brazil completely overhauled their laws regarding the storage of radiation sources.

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Serial killer Harvey Glatman is executed

Year
1959
Month Day
September 18

Serial killer Harvey Glatman is executed in a California gas chamber for murdering three young women in Los Angeles. Resisting all appeals to save his life, Glatman even wrote to the appeals board to say, “I only want to die.”

Glatman had been a smart kid. As a Boy Scout, he developed an obsession with rope. When his parents noticed that he was strangling himself on occasion, they took him to a doctor who told them that it was just a phase and that he would grow out of it. As a teenager, he threatened a girl with a toy gun in Colorado. Skipping bail, he made his way to New York, where he later spenttwo years and eight monthsin Sing Sing prison on robbery charges.

Following his release, Glatman moved to Los Angeles and opened up a television repair shop. He took up photography as a hobby, in addition to playing with ropes. On August 1, 1957, he combined these two interests in a sinister way. On the pretense of a freelance modeling assignment, Glatman lured 19-year-old Judy Ann Dull to his apartment, where he raped her and then took photos of her, bound and gagged. He then drove her out to the desert east of Los Angeles and strangled her to death with his favorite rope. By the time Dull’s body was found, there were no clues linking the crime to Glatman.

Back in Los Angeles, Glatman posted the pictures of Dull on his walls and became further obsessed with rape and murder. His next victim was Shirley Ann Bridgeford, whom he also strangled to death in the desert. In July 1958, Glatman struck again, following the same twisted procedure. But in October, his luck ran out.

Lorraine Vigil, who answered one of Glatman’s modeling ads, was driving with him to his studio when she noticed that he was heading out of the city. She began to struggle with Glatman, who pulled out a pistol and tried to tie her hands. After being shot through the hip, Vigil was able to wrestle the gun away from him. In the ensuing struggle, they both tumbled out of the car–just as a police officer drove past.

Glatman was arrested and confessed to the three murders, seeming to delight in recounting his sadistic crimes. His trial lasted a mere three days before he was sent off to San Quentin to die.

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Fidel Castro arrives in New York

Year
1960
Month Day
September 18

Fidel Castro arrives in New York City as the head of the Cuban delegation to the United Nations. Castro’s visit stirred indignation and admiration from various sectors of American society, and was climaxed by his speech to the United Nations on September 26.

By the time Castro arrived in New York City in September 1960, relations between the United States and Cuba were rapidly deteriorating. Since taking power in January 1959, Castro had infuriated the American government with his policies of nationalizing U.S. companies and investments in Cuba. Some American officials, such as Vice President Richard Nixon, believed that Castro was leaning perilously toward communism. (Castro did not publicly proclaim his adherence to communism until late-1961, when he declared that he was a “Marxist-Leninist”.) In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to begin training Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro’s regime. When the United States suspended the import of Cuban sugar in 1960, Castro’s government turned to the Soviet Union for economic assistance. The Russians were happy to oblige.

In September 1960, Castro led a delegation to New York City to address the United Nations General Assembly. He and his entourage caused an immediate sensation by deciding to stay at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem. While there, Castro met with a number of African American leaders, including Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam and the poet Langston Hughes. On September 26, Castro delivered a blistering attack on what he termed American “aggression” and “imperialism.” For over four hours, Castro lambasted U.S. policy toward Cuba and other nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The United States, he declared, had “decreed the destruction” of his revolutionary government.

Castro’s visit and lengthy public denunciation marked the final breaking point in relations between the U.S. and Cuba. In January 1961, the Eisenhower administration severed all diplomatic relations with Cuba. In April 1961, just a short time after taking office, President John F. Kennedy ordered the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Cuban exile force, armed and trained by the CIA, landed in Cuba. The attack was a fiasco. Castro’s power in Cuba was solidified by his Bay of Pigs victory over the American “imperialists.” Castro remained the undisputed leader of the communist government in Cuba for over four decades; meanwhile, relations between the United States and Cuba remained strained. In late July 2006, an unwell Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul. Fidel Castro officially stepped down in February 2008. In 2015, relations between the U.S. and Cuba were normalized, with the opening of embassies and diplomatic missions in both countries and the easing of travel restrictions. Castro died on November 25, 2016, at 90. 

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