February 29th in History

A 1908 leap year postcard referring to the tradition that allows a woman to propose marriage to a man on February 29, known as “Bachelor’s Day.” If the man refuses, he must buy the woman 12 pairs of gloves or a dress.

Today in History

  • Christopher Columbus uses his knowledge of a lunar eclipse on this night to convince Native Americans to provide him with supplies (1504)
  • In Sweden, this February 29  is followed by February 30 in an attempt to return that country to the Julian calendar (1712)
  • The minimum age for factory, mill, and mine workers in South Carolina is raised from 12 to 14 years old (1916)
  • Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her role as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind (1940)
  • Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is removed from power in a coup (2004)


  • Ann Lee, religious leader, founded the Shakers (1736)
  • Gioachino Rossini, composer (1792)
  • Herman Hollerith, computing pioneer (1860)
  • Jimmy Dorsey, bandleader (1904)
  • Dinah Shore, singer and actress (1916)
  • James B. Donovan, OSS general counsel who negotiated the exchange of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, and the release and return of nearly 10,000 prisoners held in Cuba following the Bay of Pigs invasion, subject of the film Bridge of Spies (1916)
  • Dennis Farina, actor (1944)
  • Patricia A. McKillip, author (1948)
  • Tony Robbins, motivational speaker (1960)
  • Ja Rule, rapper (1976)


  • Hilarius, pope (468)
  • Pat Garrrett, sheriff known for killing Billy the Kid (1908)
  • Melvin Purvis, FBI agent
  • Frank Albertson, actor (1964)
  • Gil Elvgren, pin-up artist (1980)
  • Davy Jones, member of The Monkees (2012)

Holidays and Celebrations

  • Rare Disease Day (in leap years only)
  • Bachelor’s Day (Ireland, United Kingdom)

February 29 is Leap Day, added to the Gregorian calendar in years divisible by four (but not those divisible by 100 but not 400). There are 306 days remaining until the end of the year.