What happened on this day in history: Mount Vesuvius erupts, British forces burn the White House, and more.
79 C.E.: Mount Vesuvius Erupts
Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, burying the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under a layer of volcanic ash and mud. An estimated 2,000 people died in Pompeii alone, but up to 16,000 people in total may have died in the eruption and its aftermath. The forgotten city would be uncovered hundreds of years later in the 1700s, which sparked centuries of excavation work. Today, tourists can see the preserved remains of people who were covered in ash as the volcano erupted, their bodies frozen in the position in which they died.
1572: The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre Begins
The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which was said to be instigated by Catherine de’ Medici, takes place in Paris, France. In the early hours of August 24, a group of Catholic nobles and citizens attacked Protestant French Huguenots who were in town for the wedding of Catherine’s daughter — who was marrying a Huguenot. The massacre, sparked by religious rivalries, spread throughout the city and beyond for the next several weeks, leaving up to 30,000 people dead.
1814: British Forces Burn The White House
The British invade Washington, D.C., setting fire to the White House and other government buildings. As part of a campaign during the War of 1812, the attack was partially in retaliation for Americans targeting York in Ontario, Canada the previous year. President James Madison had already been evacuated from the White House, and his wife Dolley famously had George Washington’s portrait saved from the flames. The building was later reconstructed, though it took three years.
1932: Amelia Earhart Takes Off On Her Non-Stop Flight Across The United States
Amelia Earhart takes off on her non-stop flight across the United States, becoming the first woman to do so. Earhart piloted a Lockheed Vega 5B from Los Angeles to Newark in 19 hours and five minutes. Earhart flew 128 miles an hour and flew at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Less than a year later, Earhart broke her own record after completing the same flight about two hours faster. Ultimately, however, Earhart died near Howland Island in the Pacific while trying to circumnavigate the globe in July 1937.
1990: The First “Gainesville Ripper” Murders Occur
Danny Rolling, the “Gainesville Ripper,” murders two college freshmen women in their home near the University of Florida. Rolling brutally stabbed Sonja Larson and Christina Powell to death and mutilated their bodies. Rolling would go on to kill three more students and later admitted he’d killed three other people as well. He was executed by lethal injection in 2006.