This Day in History

  • August 17, 1969: Woodstock Music Festival concludes
    on August 17, 2018 at 4:00 am

    On this day in 1969, the grooviest event in music history–the Woodstock Music Festival–draws to a close after three days of peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll in upstate New York. Conceived as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” Woodstock was a product of a partnership between John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang. Their idea was to make enough money from the event to build a recording studio near the arty New York town of Woodstock. When they couldn’t find an appropriate venue in the town itself, the promoters decided to hold the festival on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York–some 50 miles from Woodstock–owned by Max Yasgur. By the time the weekend of the festival arrived, the group had sold a total of 186,000 tickets and expected no more than 200,000 people to show up. By Friday night, however, thousands of eager early arrivals were pushing against the entrance gates. Fearing they could not control the crowds, the promoters made the decision to open the concert to everyone, free of charge. Close to half a million people attended Woodstock, jamming the roads around Bethel with eight miles of traffic. Soaked by rain and wallowing in the muddy mess of Yasgur’s fields, young fans best described as “hippies” euphorically took in the performances of acts like Janis Joplin, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Who performed in the early morning hours of August 17, with Roger Daltrey belting out “See Me, Feel Me,” from the now-classic album Tommy just as the sun began to rise. The most memorable moment of the concert for many fans was the closing performance by Jimi Hendrix, who gave a rambling, rocking solo guitar performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.” With not enough bathroom facilities and first-aid tents to accommodate such a huge crowd, many described the atmosphere at the festival as chaotic. There were surprisingly few episodes of violence, though one teenager was accidentally run over and killed by a tractor and another died from a drug overdose. A number of musicians performed songs expressing their opposition to the Vietnam War, a sentiment that was enthusiastically shared by the vast majority of the audience. Later, the term “Woodstock Nation” would be used as a general term to describe the youth counterculture of the 1960s. A 25th anniversary celebration of Woodstock took place in 1994 in Saugerties, New York. Known as Woodstock II, the concert featured Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills and Nash as well as newer acts such as Nine Inch Nails and Green Day. Held over another rainy, muddy weekend, the event drew an estimated 300,000 people. […]

  • Double Eagle II Becomes First Balloon to Cross the Atlantic (1978)
    on August 17, 2018 at 5:00 am

    By 1978, there had been at least 14 failed attempts to cross the Atlantic by balloon, during which five people died. One of the failures was that of the Double Eagle I in 1977. A year later, however, Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman landed the Double Eagle II in a field in Miserey, France, 137 hours after leaving Presque Isle, Maine. After their successful flight, the trio drew straws to determine who would get to sleep in a bed at the US Embassy once slept in by whom? Discuss […]

  • The Peterloo Massacre (1819)
    on August 16, 2018 at 5:00 am

    On August 16, 1819, 60,000 men, women, and children gathered at St. Peter's Field in Manchester, England, to protest unemployment and high food prices. To disperse the gathering, city officials sent in the untrained volunteer cavalry, which attacked the unarmed crowd with sabers. At least 11 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded. The incident, likened to the Battle of Waterloo, sparked widespread indignation. In 2007, a memorial plaque at the site was changed to include what? […]

  • Cameroon's Lake Monoun Explodes, Suffocating 37 (1984)
    on August 15, 2018 at 5:00 am

    The explosion at Cameroon's Lake Monoun, which killed 37 people, at first baffled investigators. It was only after a similar event at nearby Lake Nyos two years later claimed the lives of 1,700 people that experts determined that high concentration of carbon dioxide in the lakes had caused the suffocating limnic eruptions. Venting pipes were inserted into Lake Monoun to remove the gas and prevent future eruptions. How many lakes in the world are susceptible to this sort of deadly gas release? […]