This Day In History, March 17th

What happened on this day in history: Franklin D. Roosevelt marries Eleanor Roosevelt, serial killer John Wayne Gacy is born, and more.

461: Saint Patrick Dies

St Patrick Woodcut

Wikimedia CommonsA woodcut of Ireland’s patron saint in the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493.

Saint Patrick, the Christian missionary who is the primary patron saint of Ireland, dies in Saul in present-day Northern Ireland. Most of what is known about Patrick’s life comes from his book, the Confessio. He is said to have died on March 17, and today the date marks the Roman Catholic Feast of Saint Patrick, celebrated in many countries around the world as St. Patrick’s Day.


1861: Victor Emmanuel II Becomes King Of Italy

Victor Emmanuel II assumes the title of King of Italy, becoming the first king of the united country since the sixth century. He had ruled as the King of Sardinia since 1849, but when the various states of the Italian Peninsula came together into a single country 1861 during the Wars of Italian Unification, Victor Emmanuel was proclaimed king by the new Parliament. Under his rule, the joining of the country was completed.


1905: Franklin D. Roosevelt Marries Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor And Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and MuseumEleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1906.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who would later go on to become the 32nd president of the United States, marries Eleanor Roosevelt, his fifth cousin once removed. When FDR was elected president in 1933, Eleanor used her role as First Lady to promote civil rights and advocate for women and Black Americans. Their marriage was marred by affairs, including an alleged lesbian lover on Eleanor’s part, and the couple essentially lived separate lives behind their united public facade.


1942: John Wayne Gacy Is Born

American serial killer John Wayne Gacy is born in Chicago, Illinois to an abusive father and a mother who tried and failed to protect him. He was sexually assaulted by a family friend as a child, and he reportedly began molesting other children at a young age.

Pogo The Clown

John Wayne Gacy as Pogo the Clown.

Between 1967 and 1978, Gacy raped and killed at least 33 men and boys, burying them in the crawl space of his suburban Chicago home. He was arrested in December 1978 and sentenced to death for the murders. Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994.