What happened on this day in history: The U.S.S. Maine explodes, the first Teddy Bear is sold, and more from February 15th.
1564: Galileo Galilei Is Born
Galileo Galilei is born in Pisa, Italy. An astronomer, physicist, and engineer sometimes referred to as the father of modern science, Galilei is credited with inventing an early version of the thermometer and a more advanced telescope that allowed him to study the cosmos. His belief that the universe consisted of planets circling the sun — and not the Sun circling the Earth, as stated by the Catholic Church — resulted in his trial before the Roman Inquisition and subsequent house arrest, which lasted until his death in 1642.
1898: The U.S.S. Maine Explodes
The U.S.S. Maine explodes in Cuba’s Havana Harbor. More than half of the sailors aboard the ship died, and a subsequent inquiry ruled that the Maine had been blown up by a mine. This helped drum up support for the United States to declare war on Spain — leading to the Spanish-American War — but recent research has suggested that the explosion was caused by an accidental fire, not an underwater mine.
1903: The First Teddy Bear Goes On Sale
The first Teddy bear goes on sale. The toy was popularized after the public learned that President Theodore Roosevelt had refused to shoot a bear that his aides had tied up for him to kill during a hunt. A cartoonist depicted the incident in the Washington Post, which led to the widespread sale of teddy bear toys.
1939: “Butcher Baker” Serial Killer Robert Hansen Is Born
Robert Hansen is born in Estherville, Iowa. A serial killer known as the “Butcher Baker,” Hansen abducted, raped, and murdered at least 17 women in and around Anchorage, Alaska, between 1971 and 1983. Hansen captured and then released many of his victims into the wild just so that he could hunt them down.
1965: The Maple Leaf Becomes Canada’s Official Flag
The maple leaf is inaugurated as Canada’s national flag. The maple leaf had long been a symbol of Canadian identity and this new flag replaced previous versions that featured the British Union Jack. Ever since, February 15th has been celebrated as National Flag of Canada Day.