- 28 BCE – A sunspot is observed by Han Dynasty astronomers during the reign of Emperor Cheng of Han, one of the earliest dated sunspot observations in China.
- 1497 – Amerigo Vespucci allegedly leaves Cádiz for his first voyage to the New World.
- 1503 – Christopher Columbus visits the Cayman Islands and names them Las Tortugas after the numerous turtles there.
- 1534 – Jacques Cartier visits Newfoundland.
- 1773 – The Parliament of Great Britain passes the Tea Act, designed to save the British East India Company by granting it a monopoly on the North American tea trade.
- 1774 – Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette become King and Queen of France.
- 1865 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.
- 1869 – The First Transcontinental Railroad, linking the eastern and western United States, is completed at Promontory Summit, Utah (not Promontory Point, Utah) with the golden spike.
- 1872 – Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman nominated for President of the United States.
- 1893 – The Supreme Court of the United States rules in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit, under the Tariff Act of 1883.
- 1908 – Mother's Day is observed for the first time in the United States, in Grafton, West Virginia.
- 1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed the Director of the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation, and remains so until his death in 1972.
- 1941 – World War II: Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland to try to negotiate a peace deal between the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany.
- 1954 – Bill Haley & His Comets release "Rock Around the Clock", the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the Billboard charts.
- 1962 – Marvel Comics publishes the first issue of The Incredible Hulk.
- 1970 – Bobby Orr scores "The Goal" to win the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, for the Boston Bruins' fourth NHL championship in their history.
- 1975 – Sony introduces the Betamax videocassette recorder in Japan.
- 1994 – Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa's first black president.
- 2005 – A hand grenade thrown by Vladimir Arutinian lands about 65 feet (20 metres) from U.S. President George W. Bush while he is giving a speech to a crowd in Tbilisi, Georgia, but it malfunctions and does not detonate.
- 2013 – One World Trade Center becomes the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
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