This Day In History, May 22nd

What happened on this day in history: The Oregon Trail welcomes its first wagon train, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is born, and more.

1455: The War Of The Roses Begins

Battle Of Barnet This Day In History

Public Domain Lithograph depicting the Battle of Barnet, a pivotal event in the War of the Roses.

The War of the Roses begins with the Battle of St. Albans. The conflict was a series of battles between two families competing for the English throne: The York family, whose badge was a white rose, and the Lancaster family, whose badge was a red rose. Henry Tudor (Henry VII), a Lancaster, brought the bloody civil war to an end in 1485 and married Elizabeth of York, uniting the two clans. After 30 years of bloodshed, the war ended and a new royal dynasty was formed.

1843: The First Major Wagon Train Goes West On The Oregon Trail

The first major wagon train heads to Oregon. Though pioneers had trickled west before, the party that left from Elm Grove, Missouri, consisted of 1,000 men, women, and children, 100 wagons, and 5,000 oxen and cattle. The Oregon Trail was not an easy trek, and those that braved the journey faced harsh and perilous conditions. Countless other parties followed the Elm Grove train along the Oregon Trail over the next 40 years, but the construction of a railroad in 1884 ultimately made the trail obsolete.

1856: Congressman Preston Brooks Beats Senator Charles Sumner With A Cane

Preston Beats Sumner

Public DomainA depiction of the caning of Charles Sumner from 1856.

Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beats Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a cane on the Senate floor. The attack came two days after Sumner, an abolitionist and academic lawyer, gave a provocative speech about whether or not to admit Kansas to the Union as a “free” or “slave” state. Citing specific senators in his speech, Sumner argued that their support for slavery was to blame for increased violence in Kansas. The pro-slavery Brooks, insulted that Sumner singled out his relative, Senator Andrew Butler, stormed the Senate floor and beat Sumner with a metal-topped cane.

1859: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Is Born

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle is born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Doyle became famous for his iconic character Sherlock Holmes, a cunning detective who used his strong powers of observation to solve crimes. However, Doyle long thought that his Holmes stories unfairly overshadowed his more serious historical fiction. Outside of writing fiction, Doyle was a medical doctor and volunteered as a military doctor in the Second Boer War.

1939: The Pact Of Steel Is Signed

The Pact of Steel is signed between Italy and Germany, forming the Axis powers and solidifying their military alliance to fight against France and the British Empire. Japan did not sign the pact due to their insistence that the Soviet Union should be the focus of the pact, not Western Europe. The Axis, which would eventually include Japan in 1940, battled the Allied powers during World War II. Despite their allegiance, however, the three powers surrendered at different times: Italy in September 1943, Germany in May 1945, and Japan in September 1945.

1960: The World’s Most Powerful Earthquake Hits Chile

Valdivia Chile Earthquake

Public DomainChilean houses in a crumpled heap following the Valdivia earthquake.

A 9.5 earthquake — the most powerful in recorded history — strikes off the coast of Valdivia, Chile at 3:11 p.m. In addition to the damage caused by the quake, the earthquake also triggered tsunamis that reached as far as Hawaii and Japan. An estimated 1,655 died, and 3,000 were injured. Many Chilean cities sustained significant damage. In Valdivia, nearly half of the buildings were rendered uninhabitable by the massive earthquake.