Today in History:
In 1862, Sarah Bernhardt made her acting debut in Jean Racine’s “Iphigenie.”
In 1906, Montreal recorded its first automobile fatality.
In 1908, Canadians Walter Ewing and George Beattie won the gold and silver medals in trap shooting at the Olympic Games in London. It would take 90 years for another Canadian one-two finish in an Olympic event — speed skaters Catriona Le May Doan and Susan Auch in the 1998 women’s 500 metres in Nagano, Japan. Marc Gagnon and Jonathan Guilmette matched that feat in the 2002 men’s 500-metre short-track speed skating final in Salt Lake City.
In 1919, American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie died of pneumonia at age 83. Carnegie invested his savings in oil lands and in what became the biggest iron and steel works in the United States. After his retirement, he donated $350 million to establish such philanthropic organizations as the Carnegie Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as well as over 2,500 libraries throughout the United States, Canada and Britain.
In 1934, the first federal prisoners arrived at the island prison Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay.
Also in 1934, U.S. Admiral Richard Byrd was rescued, nearly dead, from Advance Base in the Antarctic. Byrd had spent five months alone at the base, with temperatures often around -62 C. He was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, the result of a defective oil stove, when rescued. He would die of natural causes in 1957 at the age of 68.
In 1956, abstract painter Jackson Pollock, 44, died in an automobile accident on Long Island, N.Y.
In 1965, rioting and looting broke out in the predominantly black Watts section of Los Angeles after white police officers arrested a black man suspected of drunk driving. More than 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in the week that followed.
In 1972, Elvis and Priscilla Presley filed for divorce after less than five years of marriage. Elvis met Priscilla Beaulieu, the daughter of a U.S. Army officer stationed in West Germany, in 1960. She moved into Graceland, Presley’s mansion in Memphis, the following year, ostensibly under the supervision of Presley’s father and stepmother. The couple were wed on May 1, 1967 and their only child, Lisa Marie, was born on Feb. 1, 1968. Elvis died in 1977.
In 1984, during a voice test for a paid political radio address from his California ranch, U.S. President Ronald Reagan joked that he had signed legislation that would “outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
In 1986, more than 150 Tamil refugees were found drifting in two lifeboats off Newfoundland. They were allowed to stay in Canada for at least one year, a move that angered other immigrants who followed proper procedures.
In 1995, three people were killed when a Toronto Transit subway train smashed into the rear of another stopped train.
In 2009, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the co-founder of the Special Olympics and sister of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, died in Hyannis, Mass., at age 88.
In 2014, Robin Williams, the Academy Award-winning actor and comic superstar, committed suicide at his home in the San Francisco Bay area. He was 63.