This Day In History, April 26th

What happened on this day in history: "Mother of the Blues" Ma Rainey is born in 1886, the No. 4 reactor in Chernobyl nuclear power plant melts down in 1986, and more.

1777: The ‘Female Paul Revere’ Rides From New York To Connecticut

Sybil Ludington allegedly races 40 miles from Fredericksburg, New York on horseback to alert her father, Henry, that the British had attacked the nearby town of Danbury, Connecticut. Ludington’s story, first published in a family memoir about her father, elicited comparisons between her ride and the more famous ride of Paul Revere. However, historians have expressed doubts in recent years over whether or not Ludington’s ride actually happened.

1865: John Wilkes Booth Is Killed

Today In History April 26

Kean Collection/Getty ImagesA depiction of John Wilkes Booth’s death in 1865.

John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed by Union soldiers in Port Royal, Virginia, at the age of 26. Twelve days earlier, Booth had fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C., hoping to topple the Union government as the Civil War came to a close. He was tracked down after a lengthy manhunt and, despite official orders to capture him alive, shot by a soldier named Boston Corbett while hiding in a barn.

1886: Ma Rainey Is Born

Gertrude Pridgett, later known as Ma Rainey, is born in Columbus, Georgia. A blues singer dubbed the “Mother of the Blues,” Rainey became a popular entertainer in the early 20th century by belting songs like “Bo-Weevil Blues” (1923), “Shave ‘Em Dry” (1924), and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (1927). Her life was depicted in August Wilson’s 1988 play, 1988 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which was adapted for film in 2020.

1933: Hermann Göring Creates The Gestapo

Hermann Göring announces the creation of the “Geheime Staatspolizei,” or the Gestapo. Secret state police loyal to the Nazis, the Gestapo’s mission was to “investigate and combat all attempts to threaten the state.” They coordinated the deportation of Jews, repressed resistance movements, and killed and tortured many of those that they arrested.

1986: The Chernobyl Disaster Takes Place


Igor Kostin/Laski Diffusion/Getty ImagesChernobyl nuclear power plant a few weeks after the disaster.

The world’s worst nuclear disaster takes place at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet town of Pripyat. At around 1 a.m. in the morning, a safety test triggered an explosion that released 50 tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere. In the immediate aftermath, 32 people died and dozens more suffered from radiation burns, but thousands would eventually perish from cancer and other radiation-related illnesses.

1989: The World’s Deadliest Known Tornado Hits Bangladesh

A tornado strikes the Manikganj district of Bangladesh. The world’s deadliest known tornado, the storm smashed a path one mile wide and ten miles long through the towns of Manikgank Sadar and Saturia. More than 1,000 people were killed, some 12,000 injured, and 80,000 lost their homes.