This Day In History, November 18th

What happened on this day in history: St. Peter's Basilica is consecrated in the Vatican, over 900 people die in the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, and more.

1626: St. Peter’s Basilica Is Consecrated

St. Peters Basilica

Dani Salva / VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesSt. Peter’s Basilica during a Palm Sunday mass.

The new St. Peter’s Basilica, which was built to replace the original building that was allegedly constructed over the tomb of St. Peter, is consecrated. The first basilica was built in the fourth century C.E., and by the 1500s, it was falling apart. The Vatican decided to demolish everything except the altar and rebuild the grand structure that stands today. After 120 years of construction, Pope Urban VIII finally consecrated the new basilica.

1865: Mark Twain’s First Story Is Published

Mark Twain Colorized Portraits

DynamichromeIn addition to writing novels, Twain was also a prolific travel writer whose prose added depth to far-off places that most Americans hadn’t seen.

Mark Twain’s first short story, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” is published in The New York Saturday Press. The tale saw immediate success and was republished in various newspapers across the United States and England.

Two years later, Twain would publish his first book: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories. The little story about a man who gambled on frogs established the now-celebrated reputation of one of America’s greatest authors.

1928: Disney’s Steamboat Willie Is Released

Disney’s Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon with synchronized sound, is released. The cartoon was one of the first to have a post-produced soundtrack. It was also the third film featuring Mickey Mouse but the first to be distributed. The film was a huge success at the time of its release, and even today, it is still considered a foundational film that changed animation forever. The cartoon was entered into the National Film Registry for being historically and culturally significant.

1939: Margaret Atwood Is Born

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood is born Ottawa. Atwood began writing at an early age, and she has since published 18 novels, 18 books of poetry, and numerous short stories, children’s books, and works of non-fiction. Her most well-known book is The Handmaid’s Tale, the award-winning dystopian novel that is frequently studied in high schools and colleges around the world.

1978: The Jonestown Massacre

Jonestown Massacre

David Hume Kennerly/Getty ImagesThe aftermath of the Jonestown Massacre.

Nearly 1,000 members of the Peoples Temple cult die at the Jonestown settlement in rural Guyana.

American preacher Jim Jones had founded the cult in 1955, and in the years before the massacre, he’d established Jonestown as a utopia for his followers. But after ordering the murder of a U.S. congressman who came to investigate the settlement on November 18, Jones forced over 900 of his followers to drink fruit juice laced with cyanide in what’s now known as the Jonestown Massacre.