ON THIS DAY: 6 April 1787 

East Indies Tea Auction

Sales by Candle, as reported in The Times at the New York Coffee House, Sweeting’s Alley, announced the availability of the following goods by auction: 30,000 fine parchment beaver skins, 1,000 beaver coats, and 30,000 ‘Deer in the Hair and Shaved’ [this means the deer skin has been cleaned of flesh]. Sales by candle were popular in … Read more

ON THIS DAY: April 1st, 1918

© Imperial War Museum, London.

The Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom was founded. It amalgamated the Royal Flying Corps (April 13, 1912 – April 1, 1918) and the air arm of the Royal Naval Air Service (July 1, 1914 – April 1, 1918). The newly created RAF was the result of the Smuts Report, prepared by South African … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 26 March 1998

Marshall Applewhite

21 women and 18 men were found dead at 18341 Colina Norte in Rancho Santa Fe, California. All were members of a cult named Heaven’s Gate, and they had committed suicide by drinking vodka laced with phenobarbital and apple sauce. The cult leaders, Peep (Marshall Herff Applewhite) and Bo (Bonnie Lu Nettles), were convinced that … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 14 March 1959

Hai ba trung Dong Ho

In Saigon, Vietnam, a celebration was organised to commemorate two sisters who, in 43 AD, led an uprising to banish their Chinese occupiers. The Trưng sisters hailed from a tribal, Lạc Việt aristocratic family in a district that is now part of modern-day Hanoi. When Trưng Trắc’s husband was executed for opposing the Han regime, … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 3 March 1845

Oyster Eaters by Jacob Lucasz Ochtervelt circa 1665-1669 Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

An advertisement appeared in The Times asking for an oyster dealer ‘who does not wash his hands in the same water as the oysters, and who is not fronted when civilly asked to wash them before he uses them to open the oysters’. Nowadays we associate oysters with champagne and luxury. But in the nineteenth century they … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 26 February 1815


Napoleon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba, escaped. In April 1814, Napoleon had signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which allowed him to choose an island to rule. Elba, with its 86 square miles and a population of only 12,000 residents, was his chosen destination. It was not a prison, as … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 14 February 1929

Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish physician and microbiologist, discovered benzylpenicillin (penicillin G), an antibiotic originating from the mould Penicillium rubens, a species of fungus. Penicillium rubens was first discovered in 1923 by French microbiologist Philibert Melchior Joseph Ehi Biourge. However, in 1928, Fleming stumbled upon that one of his bacterial cultures, which he was experimenting with, was contaminated … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 8 February 1587

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots, cousin of Queen Elizabeth I, was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. Mary was implicated in the Babington Plot, which involved the attempted assassination of Elizabeth. She was convicted of treason by a court of 36 noblemen, including The Lord Burghley, William Cecil; George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury; and Francis … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 30 January 1948


Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in the grounds of Birla House (renamed Gandhi Smriti) in New Delhi, India, on his way to conducting a multi-faith prayer meeting. His assassin, Nathuram Godse, a Chitpavan Brahmin from Pune in Maharashtra, was a Hindu nationalist who thought Gandhi was too accommodating in the Partition of India and Pakistan. Godse … Read more

ON THIS DAY: 14 January 1697

Salem Witch Trials

The general court of the Province of Massachusetts Bay ordered a day of public fasting and prayer for atonement because of the legal persecution of witches. Twelve of the jurors of the Court of Ayer and Terminer who investigated over 200 accusations of witchcraft signed a statement of apology for their part in the Salem … Read more