May 10 Events in History

This article presents a chronological exploration of significant historical events that occurred on May 10th, spanning centuries and encompassing a diverse range of cultural, political, and technological milestones.

From the assertion of Edward I’s authority over Scotland in 1291 to the record-breaking auction of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in 2012, each event reflects pivotal moments that have shaped and influenced the world in various ways.

May 10th – On this Day in History

1291 – Scottish nobles recognize the authority of Edward I of England

This event marks a pivotal moment in Scottish history. Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the “Hammer of the Scots,” was recognized as the feudal lord of Scotland by several Scottish nobles.

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This recognition came after a period of instability in Scotland following the death of Alexander III, and Edward’s involvement was initially requested to help resolve the succession crisis. However, his ambition led him to assert control over Scotland, setting the stage for the subsequent Wars of Scottish Independence.

1497 – Amerigo Vespucci allegedly leaves Cádiz for his first voyage to the New World

On this day, Amerigo Vespucci is traditionally said to have embarked on his first voyage to the New World from Cádiz, Spain.

Although there is some historical debate about the details of Vespucci’s voyages, this expedition is significant because Vespucci later claimed to have realized that the lands he explored were part of a separate continent, not Asia as initially believed by Christopher Columbus.

His accounts contributed to the recognition of the Americas as distinct continents, eventually leading to them being named after him.

Amerigo Vespucci

1503 – Christopher Columbus discovers the Cayman Islands

During his fourth and final voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus came upon the Cayman Islands on May 10, 1503. He named them “Las Tortugas” due to the abundance of sea turtles in the surrounding waters.

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The islands were later renamed the Cayman Islands after the Carib word for crocodile, reflecting the presence of what were believed to be large marine reptiles, which were likely crocodiles or alligators.

1773 – The British Parliament passes the Tea Act, a catalyst for the Boston Tea Party

The Tea Act of 1773 was enacted by the British Parliament to help the struggling British East India Company by making its tea cheaper in the American colonies than that of other importers. This act effectively granted the company a monopoly on the American tea trade.

Contrary to common belief, the act did not impose new taxes but allowed the company to sell surplus tea directly to the colonies without the usual import duties.

This led to widespread protests in the colonies, culminating in the Boston Tea Party, a direct action by colonists in Boston against the British government and the monopolistic company.

1774 – Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette become King and Queen of France

Louis XVI ascended to the French throne on May 10, 1774, following the death of his grandfather, Louis XV. He was 20 years old at the time, and his wife, Marie Antoinette, became the queen.

Their reign began at a time of considerable financial crisis and social unrest in France, partially inherited from his predecessor’s lavish spending.

These challenges would eventually overwhelm Louis XVI’s ability to govern effectively, leading to the French Revolution in 1789, and ultimately to the king and queen’s executions in 1793.

1796 – Napoleon wins the Battle of Lodi over the Austrians

The Battle of Lodi was fought on May 10, 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars, where Napoleon Bonaparte’s French army defeated the Austrians in Lodi, Italy. This victory was significant for several reasons.

It was part of Napoleon’s first Italian campaign, a series of battles that demonstrated his military genius and helped solidify his reputation as one of the greatest military commanders in history.

The battle at the Lodi bridge was particularly noteworthy for the bravery shown by French troops, and it marked a turning point that led to the French occupation of northern Italy.

1824 – The National Gallery in London opens to the public

On May 10, 1824, the National Gallery in London was opened to the public. It began with a modest collection of just 38 paintings, donated by the British government, who had purchased them from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein, a Russian-born British patron of the arts.

Located at Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery has since grown to house one of the world’s most significant collections of paintings, encompassing works from the mid-13th century to 1900. Its establishment provided public access to fine art, previously a privilege of the wealthy.

1869 – The Golden Spike is driven, completing the United States’ First Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah

The “Golden Spike” was driven into the rail line at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, marking the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States. This event was pivotal as it linked the country coast-to-coast, significantly reducing the travel time for goods and people.

The rail line was built by two companies, the Central Pacific Railroad of California and the Union Pacific Railroad, which constructed the line from Omaha, Nebraska. The completion of the railroad was a monumental achievement of engineering and labor, involving thousands of workers, including a large number of Chinese immigrants.

Transcontinental Railroad

1872 – Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman nominated for President of the United States

Victoria Woodhull was nominated for President of the United States by the newly formed Equal Rights Party on May 10, 1872. Her nomination was groundbreaking as she was the first woman to run for the U.S. presidency. Woodhull was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement and an advocate for women’s rights and labor reforms.

Her platform included a proposal for equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender. Although her candidacy was symbolic, and she did not win the election, her campaign marked a significant step forward in the fight for gender equality in American politics.

1908 – The first Mother’s Day is observed in Grafton, West Virginia

The first official observance of Mother’s Day took place in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908. The event was organized by Anna Jarvis to honor her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, who had been a peace activist caring for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War.

Anna Jarvis’s campaign to recognize Mother’s Day as a recognized holiday was to celebrate and honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. This observance led to President Woodrow Wilson officially declaring the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914, establishing it as a national holiday across the United States.

1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed the Director of the U.S. Bureau of Investigation (the predecessor to the FBI)

On May 10, 1924, J. Edgar Hoover was appointed as the Director of the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, which would later become the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935. Hoover’s appointment marked the beginning of a long and controversial tenure that lasted until his death in 1972.

During his time as director, Hoover was instrumental in founding and developing the FBI into a premier federal law enforcement agency, known for its focus on cases involving organized crime, espionage, and internal security.

However, his methods and the extent of his personal control over the FBI have been subjects of criticism, particularly his emphasis on political surveillance and the accumulation of secret files on political leaders.

1933 – Nazis stage massive public book burnings in Germany

On May 10, 1933, in Nazi Germany, university students organized and participated in widespread public book burnings across the country. These events were part of a campaign to align German arts and culture with Nazi ideology.

Books targeted for burning were those viewed as being subversive or as representing ideologies opposed to Nazism, including works by Jewish, communist, and pacifist writers, among others. This act of censorship and symbolic destruction of intellectual opposition is one of the most infamous examples of cultural purging.

1940 – Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Winston Churchill became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on May 10, 1940, during a critical phase at the beginning of World War II, following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.

Churchill’s leadership through the war is highly regarded, particularly for his ability to inspire British resistance during times of severe adversity, such as the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

His speeches and radio broadcasts helped galvanize British resolve and were crucial in maintaining morale during the darkest hours of the conflict.

Winston Churchill

1941 – Rudolf Hess, Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany, parachutes into Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom

In a bizarre and unexpected wartime incident, Rudolf Hess, then Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany, flew solo to Scotland on May 10, 1941, and parachuted into the country, allegedly attempting to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom.

Landing near Glasgow, Hess was promptly arrested. His mission was unauthorized by Adolf Hitler, and he was later disowned by the Nazi regime. Hess was detained by the British for the duration of the war and was subsequently tried at the Nuremberg Trials, where he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

1960 – The nuclear submarine USS Triton completes the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe

The USS Triton, a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine, completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe on May 10, 1960. This historic voyage, named “Operation Sandblast,” began on February 24, 1960, under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach Jr.

The mission showcased the capabilities of nuclear propulsion, which allows submarines to operate underwater for prolonged periods without surfacing. The Triton traveled more than 26,000 nautical miles during its journey, demonstrating the strategic value of nuclear submarines during the Cold War era.

1962 – Marvel Comics publishes the first issue of “The Incredible Hulk”

On May 10, 1962, Marvel Comics released the first issue of “The Incredible Hulk,” introducing one of its most iconic characters. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, the Hulk, whose alter ego is Dr. Bruce Banner, became a staple in the Marvel universe.

Banner transforms into the Hulk, a large, green, humanoid monster, whenever he is subjected to emotional stress or physical harm. The character’s creation was inspired by a combination of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Hulk’s struggles with his uncontrollable power and anger resonate with themes of inner conflict and the human condition, making him a deeply relatable and enduring character.

1975 – Sony introduces the Betamax videocassette recorder in Japan

Sony introduced the Betamax videocassette recorder (VCR) in Japan on May 10, 1975. The Betamax was one of the first successful consumer-level videotape systems for television recording and playback, marking the beginning of the home video revolution.

Although Betamax offered higher quality recording than its primary competitor, VHS (Video Home System), it ultimately lost the format war due to several strategic errors, including less recording time per cassette and a higher price point.

Despite its commercial downfall, Betamax’s introduction was a significant milestone in the development of video recording technology.

1994 – Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president

Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president on May 10, 1994, marking a pivotal moment in the country’s history. This event followed the end of apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government.

Mandela’s presidency symbolized the transition of South Africa to a fully democratic regime. Mandela, a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement, had spent 27 years in prison before becoming President. His leadership and commitment to reconciliation and nation-building were instrumental in steering South Africa towards a more equitable society.

2005 – A hand grenade thrown by Vladimir Arutyunian lands 20 meters from U.S. President George W. Bush while he is giving a speech in Tbilisi, Georgia, but it malfunctions and does not detonate

On May 10, 2005, during a speech by U.S. President George W. Bush in Freedom Square in Tbilisi, Georgia, a live hand grenade was thrown towards the podium where he was speaking. The grenade landed about 20 meters from the President but fortunately did not detonate due to a malfunction.

The perpetrator, Vladimir Arutyunian, was later arrested after a manhunt. This incident highlighted significant security concerns during presidential visits and underscored the ongoing issues of political violence in some regions.

2012 – The painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch sells at auction for nearly $120 million, setting a new world record for an auctioned work of art

Edvard Munch’s iconic painting “The Scream” was sold at Sotheby’s auction for nearly $120 million on May 10, 2012. This sale set a new record at the time for the most expensive piece of art sold at auction.

“The Scream” is one of the most recognizable images in art history, symbolizing existential angst and the human condition. The painting’s intense, vibrant colors and the agonized figure capture a moment of profound emotional turmoil. Its sale at such a high price reflects its profound impact on both art and popular culture.