#TodayInHistory – October 18
October 18 – Some important events on this day.
1009 👉🏼 The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is destroyed by the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who hacks the Church’s foundations down to bedrock
1356 👉🏼 Basel earthquake, the most significant historic seismological event north of the Alps, destroys Basel in Switzerland.
1685 👉🏼 French King Louis XIV revokes Edict of Nantes cancelling rights of French Protestants
1776 👉🏼 In a bar decorated with bird tail in Elmsford, New York, a customer requests a glassful of “those cock tails” from bartender Betsy Flanagan
1867 👉🏼 Alaska Purchase: US takes formal possession of Alaska from Russia, having paid $7.2 million.
As Russia completed its eastward expansion through Siberia, the country inevitably crossed the Bering Strait and established a presence in the northern Americas. This territory, first settled in the early 17th century, was known as Alaska, but very few Russians ever moved there.
Russia was damaged militarily by its defeat in the Crimean War, in which Britain and its ally France defeated the Empire. Russian Tsar Alexander II began looking for ways to sell Alaska to America, especially as the territory would be impossible to defend if Britain decided to attack it. (Britain held Canada as a colony at the time of the sale.)
After the American Civil War concluded, negotiations began on selling Alaska to America, though opinion in both countries was against the deal. Many Russians did not want to give away a territory where gold had been discovered, and Americans did not want an ‘ice-box’ where very few people lived.
On March 30, 1867, the two countries agreed on a purely symbolic sum of $7.2 million ($109 million in 2018), about 2 cents an acre. America had purchased 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2) of territory. Alaska would not be admitted as a state to the Union until 1959, and it remained sparsely populated until a gold rush in the late 19th century.
1900 👉🏼 Count Bernard von Bulow becomes Chancellor of Germany, famous for first referring to Germany’s need for ‘place in the sun’ and global empire
1912 👉🏼 The Treaty of Lausanne ends the Italo-Turkish War; Italy annexes Libya.
In the years leading up to World War I, Italy became aggressive in pursuing claims to areas in Africa that were once part of the Roman Empire, which it saw itself as a successor to. Libya was the only other territory in Africa not claimed by another European power so it was the only possession Italy had a chance of dominating.
A rise in Italian colonial fervor coincided with the Ottoman Empire’s steady decline in the late 19th and early 20th century. Italy sent an ultimatum to the Ottomans on September 28, 1911, and the Ottomans attempted to negotiate, but Italy declared war the following day.
The conflict lasted for a year and led to an Italian victory and control over what became Italian Libya. The conflict was minor in itself but was a significant precursor to World War I, weakening the Ottomans further, surging nationalism in the Balkans and causing the Balkan League to declare war on the Turks before the war had ended.
The war also had its share of technological advancements – including the airplane: on October 23, 1911, the first aerial reconnaissance mission occurred, and on November 1, the first aerial bomb was dropped, both by an Italian aircraft. The Turks did not have anti-air defenses and became the first to shoot down an aircraft with rifle fire alone.
1918 👉🏼 Czechoslovakia declares independence from Austro-Hungarian Empire
1931 👉🏼 American gangster Al Capone convicted of tax evasion
1962 👉🏼 James Watson (US), Francis Crick (UK) and Maurice Wilkins (UK) win the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work in determining the structure of DNA
1968 👉🏼 US Olympic Committee suspends Tommie Smith and John Carlos for giving the Black Power salute to protest racism and injustice against African-Americans during Olympic medal ceremony