July 20, 1304 – Italian scholar and poet Francesco Petrarca, bettern known as Petrarch, was born in Arezzo, Tuscany.
July 20, 1738 – Canadian explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye reached the western shore of Lake Michigan.
July 20, 1775 - A British rule went into effect that banned colonists from fishing in the North Atlantic.
July 20, 1775 - Patriots attacked Josiah Martin's headquarters at Fort Johnsont on Cape Fear.
July 20, 1779 - Mohawk Indian Chief Joseph Brant led a raid in the Neversink Valley in New York. They destroyed a school and a church.
July 20, 1780 - General “Mad Anthony” Wayne led two brigades of Pennsylvania militia, supported by four artillery pieces, in an attempt to destroy a fortified blockhouse located approximately four miles north of Hoboken, in Bull’s Ferry, New Jersey. The blockhouse, or observation shelter, was surrounded by iron stakes and defended by 70 Loyalists, who managed to hold on to it despite the best efforts of the Americans. The Patriots lost 18 men killed and 46 wounded in the unsuccessful assault.
July 20, 1797 – Polish geologist and explorer Paweł Edmund Strzelecki was born in Głuszyna (then part of South Prussia, today part of Nowe Miasto, Poznań), Greater Poland.
July 20, 1799 - Daniel Pratt, who was to become a significant industrialist in nineteenth-century Alabama, was born in Temple, New Hampshire. After arriving in Alabama in 1832, he founded the town of Prattville and established what would later become the largest cotton gin manufacturing plant in the world.
July 20, 1818 – A postal route advertisement on this date stated that a postal route would run from Whetstone Hill to Burnt Corn Springs, Fort Claiborne, Mount Actna (in Clarke County), Fort Madison, Republicville (Jackson, Ala.) to St. Stephens, 131 miles, twice each week.
July 20, 1825 – During his tour of the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette visited Germantown and Chestnut Hill, near Philadelphia, Pa.
July 20, 1859 - Brooklyn and New York played baseball at Fashion Park Race Course on Long Island, N.Y. The game marked the first time that admission had been charged to see a ball game. It cost 50 cents to get in and the players on the field did not receive a salary (until 1863).
July 20, 1861 - The Congress of the Confederate States began holding sessions in Richmond, Va.
July 20, 1861 - A five-day Federal operation from Springfield to Forsyth, Missouri began, and more Confederate troops converged on the Manassas, Virginia area.
July 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Gaines’ Landing, Arkansas; at Hatchie Bottom, Mississippi; and at Greenville and Taberville, Missouri.
July 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Cabin Creek in the Indian Territory; at Coals Hill (near Cheshire) and Hockingport in Ohio; at Tarborough and Sparta, North Carolina; at Ashby Gap and another at Berry’s Ferry, Virginia; and near Hedgesville and Martinsburg, West Virginia.
July 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce expelled 33 members because of their refusal to take an oath of allegiance.
July 20, 1863 - During the Civil War, the Federal naval began shelling of Legare’ Point on James Island, South Carolina. A three-day Federal operation from Memphis, Tenn. to Hernando, Miss. began, and a seven-day Federal operation against Indians in the Round Valley area of California also began.
July 20, 1864 - On this day, General John Bell Hood's Confederate forces attacked William T. Sherman's troops outside of Atlanta, Georgia at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, but were repulsed with heavy losses. This was Hood’s first battle as head of the Army of Tennessee.
July 20, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Arrow Rock, Missouri; in Blount County, Tennessee; and at Newport, Berryville, Philomont and Stephenson’s Depot in Virginia.
July 20, 1864 – During the Civil War, an 11-day Federal operation began in La Fayette and Johnson counties in Missouri.
July 20, 1864 – During the Civil War, Federals continued shelling Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The Federals shot 4,890 artillery rounds into Ft Sumter over a 14-day period.
July 20, 1865 - Joseph Sanders, aka “The Turncoat of Dale County,” resigned his commission in the U.S. Army, citing concerns for the welfare and safety of his family, who were still living in Dale County, Ala. As had happened previously when he resigned his Confederate commission, Sanders' request to leave the service was endorsed by his superiors. Sanders' resignation took effect on Sept. 13, 1865, with the discharge granted "for the good of the service.”
July 20, 1869 – Mark Twain’s second book, “Innocents Abroad,” was published, firmly establishing Twain as a serious writer.
July 20, 1870 – Steamboat pilot Charles Johnson of Franklin, Ala. married Frances Elizabeth Foster (Fannie Bett). One of the stained-glass windows in the First Methodist Church at Franklin was dedicated to her memory.
July 20, 1875 – The largest swarm of locusts in American history descended upon the Great Plains. Measuring 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide, the swarm stretched from Canada to Texas.
July 20, 1881 – Five years after General George A. Custer's infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrendered to the U.S. Army, which promised amnesty for him and his followers.
July 20, 1896 - Mr. W.H. Louiselle of the Bear Creek Mill Co. and his brother from Manistee, Mich., visited The Monroe Journal office on this Monday afternoon. Louiselle had recently graduated from a leading law school and had plans of possibly locating in “some progressive southern city.”
July 20, 1901 – National Baseball Hall of Fame left fielder Heinie Manush was born in Tuscumbia, Ala. During his career, he played for the Detroit Tigers, the St. Louis Browns, the Washington Senators, the Boston Red Sox, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964.
July 20, 1903 – The Ford Motor Company shipped its first car.
July 20, 1905 – The Monroe Journal reported that Dr. A.G. Stacey of Activity (in Conecuh County?) had returned from Louisville, Ky., where he had been studying medicine for the past four years and was “now a full fledged M.D.”
July 20, 1906 - The reunion of Confederate veterans at Captain Riley’s took place on this Friday. Thirteen veterans and other visitors were present. They had a fine dinner, watermelons, fruit, ices, lemonade, etc. and enjoyed the occasion immensely according to The Monroe Journal.
July 20, 1910 - The Conecuh Guards, commanded by Capt. P.M. Bruner, left on this Wednesday afternoon for their annual encampment at Chickamauga.
July 20, 1916 – The 11th annual session of the Monroe County Masonic Conference was held at Excel Lodge, No. 655, at 10 a.m. in Excel, Ala. Past Grand Master, the Hon. H.C. Miller of Birmingham, was present at this meeting to conduct the conference. W.S. Nash was Secretary.
July 20, 1916 - The University of Alabama “Varsity Four Quartet” performed at Monroe County High School in Monroeville at 8:30 p.m. Admission was 25 cents and 35 cents. Bill McCorvey Jr. and Steve Hixon were the quartet’s managers. According to the July 27, 1916 edition of The Monroe Journal, “the young representatives of the University were handicapped in doing full justice to themselves by the fact that they had no printed programs and that their announcement of the numbers, their authors and names were given in such an inarticulate manner as to be lost to the audience who naturally had some curiosity in this direction. Their extreme rapidity of singing together with faulty enunciation caused the audience to fail to grasp much of the beauty of the rendition.”
July 20, 1916 – The Monroe Journal reported that Prof. J.M. Stapleton was teaching at the Grimes school house that summer.
July 20, 1916 – The Monroe Journal reported, in news from the Perdue Hill community, that the recent high water “came up about six inches in Florey Brothers’ store. The bridge drifted between the store and the residence.”
July 20, 1916 – The Monroe Journal reported that M. Katz “had an experience in returning from Mobile recently that he would not care to repeat. Being caught in the Gulf City by the storm which caused the suspension of all transportation, he took advantage of the opportunity offered by the first train out of Mobile over the Southern railroad to come as far north as Whatley and undertook to make his way home across country. High water made it impossible to get a conveyance and he was forced to make the trip most of way on foot, swimming creeks and wading through backwater until the Alabama River was reached. He was fortunate in getting a negro with a skiff to ferry him across, after which he reached home without further incident.”
July 20, 1916 – The Conecuh Record reported that Percy Chapman reported that he had succeeded in securing 10 recruits for the State Militia.
July 20, 1916 – The Conecuh Record reported, in news from the Finklea community, that “up to last week, the farmers in this section had a fine prospect for a good crop but the storm has nearly ruined everything, especially corn and cotton. The boll weevil is getting in his work on cotton. Roads were badly washed. Mr. Lowery’s mill dam, which had just been rebuilt, was washed away. While the storm did much damage, we are glad to note that there was no loss of life.”
July 20, 1916 – The Conecuh Record reported that the “recent storm is reported to have done injury to crops amounting to about a third in the vicinity of Brooklyn.”
July 20, 1919 – New Zealand mountaineer and explorer Sir Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay would summit the tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, on May 29, 1953.
July 20, 1933 – Novelist Cormac McCarthy was born in Providence, Rhode Island.
July 20, 1940 – California opened its first freeway. Known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway, the Pasadena Freeway, or simply “the 110,” it was also the first freeway — a high-speed, divided, and limited-access thoroughfare — in the western United States. It runs for just over eight miles and connects Pasadena to Los Angeles.
July 20, 1944 – During World War II, Adolf Hitler survived an assassination attempt led by German Army Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. The plot involved a bomb that exploded at Hitler's Rastenburg headquarters, but Hitler was only wounded.
July 20, 1947 - The National Football League (NFL) ruled that no professional team could sign a player who had college eligibility remaining.
July 20, 1947 – The Evergreen Greenies were scheduled to play their arch rivals, Monroeville, in Evergreen on this Sunday, starting at 3 p.m. Greenies manager Wendell Hart was expected to get the pitching start for Evergreen.
July 20, 1955 – The Evergreen Dodgers beat the Red Sox, 14-10, and pulled off the first triple play of the season. Players for the Dodgers included winning pitcher Jackie Frazier, Jimmy Raines, Bonner Ridgeway, Jimmy Kelley and Wayne Tolbert. Players for the Red Sox included losing pitcher Conner Warren, Billy Melton, Stanley Barlow and Don Holcombe.
July 20, 1964 – During the Vietnam War, Viet Cong forces attacked the capital of Định Tường Province, Cái Bè, killing 11 South Vietnamese military personnel and 40 civilians (30 of whom are children).
July 20, 1969 - At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.
July 20, 1969 - A top-secret study, commissioned by presidential assistant Henry Kissinger, was completed by the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Code-named Duck Hook, the study proposed measures for military escalation against North Vietnam. The military options included a massive bombing of Hanoi, Haiphong, and other key areas of North Vietnam; a ground invasion of North Vietnam; the mining of harbors and rivers; and a bombing campaign designed to sever the main railroad links to China. A total of 29 major targets in North Vietnam were pinpointed for destruction in a series of air attacks planned to last four days and to be renewed until Hanoi capitulated.
July 20, 1970 - The first (and only) baby was born on Alcatraz Island, during an occupation by American Indians.
July 20, 1976 – Journalist Erica Hill was born in Clinton, Connecticut.
July 20, 1977 – The Central Intelligence Agency released documents under the Freedom of Information Act revealing it had engaged in mind-control experiments.
July 20, 1985 - Treasure hunters began raising $400 million in coins and silver from the Spanish galleon "Nuestra Senora de Atocha." The ship sank in 1622, 40 miles off the coast of Key West, Fla.
July 20, 1997 – The fully restored USS Constitution (a.k.a. Old Ironsides) celebrated its 200th birthday by setting sail for the first time in 116 years.
July 20, 1997 - Alabama author James Ralph Johnson died in Santa Fe, N.M.
July 20, 2006 – “Heavens Fall,” which starred Timothy Hutton and Leelee Sobieski and was filmed largely in Monroe County, was released for the first time at the Stony Brooks Film Festival.
July 20, 2007 – Sylacauga, Ala. native and former Jefferson Davis Community College baseball player Ehren Wassermann made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago White Sox against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, retiring both batters faced.
July 20, 2012 – A gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, as it is showing “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 and injuring 70 others.