50 Years Ago
With the space race accelerating after the Soviet Sputnik I launch, President Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) into existence, July 29, 1958. "We may find that the road to lasting peace truly lies through the stars," says Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. By 2008, NASA will launch over 100 manned spaceflights and make discoveries that lead to improved highway safety, medical technology and intensive care monitors.
90 Years Ago
Former Czar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei—detained by the Bolsheviks since Nicholas' abdication the year before—are executed in Yekaterinberg, July 17, 1918, to prevent rescue by White Army forces nearby. After decades of rumors of survivors, remains of the czar, czarina and three children are exhumed in 1991; in 2008, DNA analysis identifies the two remaining children.
110 Years Ago
"A Bully Fight"
Battling alongside the regular U.S. Army against Cuba's Spanish occupiers, Theodore Roosevelt leads his volunteer cavalry of "Rough Riders" in charges up Kettle and San Juan hills, near Santiago, Cuba, on July 1, 1898. Their exploits help win the hills and the Spanish-American War, which ends days later. Roosevelt is a hero and returns to a revitalized political career. In 2001, 82 years after his death in 1919, he is awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor in Cuba.
160 Years Ago
Rights of Woman
America's first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York, July 19-20, 1848. Organizers (below: Elizabeth Cady Stanton) issue a list of grievances, from disenfranchisement to unfair child custody laws, and resolve to demand equality. Their declaration is met largely with derision—"Where, gentlemen, will be our dinners?" asks the Oneida Whig newspaper—and it is 72 years before the 19th Amendment gives women the vote.
420 Years Ago
Britain Waives the Rules
Queen Elizabeth I's English fleet takes on the Spanish Armada, July 31, 1588. Nine days later the Armada—part of King Philip II's plan to invade Britain and restore Catholicism—turns tail, its defenses disrupted by British ships set afire and aimed at it. The battle is won, though England and Spain remain at war until 1604.