July 21st in History

Wanted poster for Jesse James

Today in History

  • Arsonists burn one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus (356 BCE)
  • American Civil War: The First Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the war, takes place near Mansassas, Virginia (1861)
  • In what is thought to be the first western shootout, Wild Bill Hickok shoots and kills Davis Tutt (1865)
  • Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang conduct the first successful train robbery in the American Old West (1873)
  • Louis Rigolly becomes the first human being to break the 100 mph barrier on land (1904)
  • Tennessee high school biology teacher John T. Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution to schoolchildren and is fined $100 (1925)
  • Malcolm Campbell becomes the first human being to exceed 150 mph on land (1925)
  • Vietnam is partitioned into North and South Vietnam (1954)
  • The last major league baseball team to integrate, the Boston Red Sox, fields their first African-American player, Pumps Green (1959)
  • Astronaut Gus Grissom becomes the second American in space aboard the Mercury Liberty Bell 7 mission (1961)
  • Egypt’s Aswan High Dam is completed (1970)
  • Vostok Station, Antarctica, records the world’s lowest temperature in an inhabited location, -89.2° C (-128.6° F) (1983)
  • The last NASA Space Shuttle mission, STS-135, lands (2011)
  • Erden Eruç completes the first human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth (2012)


  • Paul Reuter, journalist who founded Reuters (1816)
  • Hart Crane, poet (1899)
  • Ernest Hemingway, author (1899)
  • Marshall McLuhan, media theorist (1911)
  • Isaac Stern, violinist and conductor (1920)
  • Kay Starr, singer (1922)
  • Don Knotts, actor and comedian (1924)
  • John Gardner, author (1933)
  • Jonathan Miller, actor and author, known for Beyond the Fringe (1934)
  • Janet Reno, US Attorney-General (1938)
  • Edward Herrmann, actor (1943)
  • Ken Starr, US Solicitor-General and special prosecutor (1946)
  • Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), singer-songwriter (1948)
  • Garry Trudeau, cartoonist who created Doonesbury (1948)
  • Robin Williams, actor and comedian (1951)
  • Jon Lovitz, comedian and actor (1957)
  • Brandi Chastain, soccer player (1968)
  • Josh Hartnett, actor (1978)


  • Robert Burns, poet (1796)
  • Owen Wister, author (1938)
  • Claus von Stauffenberg, German officer, leader of the Bomb Plot (1944*)
  • Jimmie Foxx, baseball player (1967)
  • Basil Rathbone, actor (1967)
  • Dave Garroway, founding anchor of The Today Show (1982)
  • Alan Shepard, astronaut (1998)
  • Robert Young, actor (1998)
  • Jerry Goldsmith, composer (2004)
  • Long John Baldry, singer and voice actor (2005)
  • E. L. Doctorow, author (2015)

* The “Bomb Plot” assassination attempt is the starting point for my alternate history novel with Douglas Niles, Fox on the Rhine.

Holidays and Celebrations

  • Legal Drinking Age Day (US)
  • Liberation Day (Guam)
  • National Bridal Sale Day (US)
  • National Day (Belgium)
  • Racial Harmony Day (Singapore)
  • Kazanskaya (Russia, also observed November 4)

July 21 is the 202nd day of the year (203rd in leap years). There are 163 days remaining until the end of the year.