This Day In History, May 1st

What happened on this day in history: Evelyn McHale dies in the "Most Beautiful Suicide," Aron Ralston amputates his own arm, and more.

1840: The First Adhesive Postage Stamp Is Released

The world’s first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, is introduced in the United Kingdom. Until the introduction of the adhesive stamp, letters were weighed individually and priced accordingly, and the person receiving the mail was the one who paid. However, if the recipient refused, the post office lost money. The one-cent postage stamp ensured that all mail was paid for and made sending letters affordable for the general public.

1852: Calamity Jane Is Born

Calamity Jane

Wikimedia CommonsKnown for her legendary skills with a gun, Calamity Jane remains among the most fabled figures of the Wild West to this day.

American frontierswoman and sharpshooter Calamity Jane is born Martha Jane Cannary in Princeton, Missouri. It’s unclear how factual many of the stories that she later told about her life in the Wild West really were. However, it is known that she settled in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1876, where she met folk hero Wild Bill HickokĀ and may have had a relationship with him. Later in life, Calamity Jane appeared in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and cemented her place as an enduring legend of the American Frontier.

1931: The Empire State Building Is Dedicated

President Herbert Hoover dedicates the Empire State Building in New York City by symbolically pushing a button from the White House to “light up” the structure. The tallest skyscraper in the world at the time, the Empire State Building took just one year and 45 days to build. Standing at 1,250 feet high, the building held its record as the tallest in the world until the World Trade Center was constructed in 1972.

1947: Evelyn McHale Dies By Suicide

Evelyn McHale

Robert Wiles/Wikimedia CommonsThe “most beautiful suicide” of Evelyn McHale.

A 23-year-old bookkeeper named Evelyn McHale jumps to her death from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in what is now known as “the most beautiful suicide.” Just four minutes after she died, a photography student named Robert Wiles snapped a photo of her body, which had landed on a car below, crushing it. The image is one of the most iconic photos in modern history.

2003: Aron Ralston Amputates His Own Arm

Aron Ralston

Aron Ralston/YouTubeAron Ralston just before he amputated his own arm in a Utah canyon.

Mountaineer Aron Ralston cuts off his own arm after it becomes stuck between a rock wall and a boulder during a climbing accident in Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon.

Ralston had been trapped for five days and had accepted his inevitable death when he suddenly had a vision of himself in the future with a partially-amputated arm. He then broke his radius and ulna, before using a dull, two-inch knife and pliers from the multi-tool he carried to cut through his own skin and tendons, successfully amputating his forearm and freeing himself.