May 13 Events in History

May 13th stands as a significant date in history, marked by groundbreaking events that have shaped cultures, politics, and technological advancements worldwide.

From the establishment of the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown in 1607 to major geopolitical shifts and remarkable achievements in space exploration, this date reflects the dynamic tapestry of human endeavor.

This article delves into twenty pivotal events that occurred on May 13th, presenting a chronological journey through time that highlights how each day in history contributes to the narrative of our global society.

May 13th – On this Day in History

1607 – The English colony of Jamestown, Virginia, was settled. This became the first permanent English settlement in America

The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Established by the Virginia Company of London, this colony was founded primarily for economic ventures.

Also Read: May 12 Events in History

The settlers landed at Jamestown on May 13, 1607, and faced immense hardships including hostile relations with the native Powhatan Confederacy, severe food shortages, and rampant disease.

Despite these difficulties, Jamestown played a pivotal role in the expansion of the English colonial presence in North America.

Jamestown in 1619

1619 – Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Dutch statesman who played a key role in the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain, was executed

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was a key figure in the Dutch struggle for independence from Spanish rule, serving as the Grand Pensionary of Holland. He was instrumental in forming the Dutch Republic and was a leader in the Twelve Years’ Truce with Spain.

Also Read: May 14th – On this Day in History

However, his political conflict with Prince Maurice of Nassau over religious and military policy led to his downfall. Van Oldenbarnevelt was arrested, tried, and ultimately executed on May 13, 1619, a reflection of the deep political and religious divisions within the nascent Dutch Republic.

1787 – The First Fleet departs Portsmouth, England, carrying the first European settlers to Australia, marking the beginning of British colonization

The First Fleet, consisting of 11 ships, departed from Portsmouth, England, on May 13, 1787, carrying around 1,300 people, including 736 convicts. Commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip, the fleet’s mission was to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay on the east coast of Australia.

This marked the beginning of British colonization of Australia and the start of a significant chapter in the history of the continent, impacting the indigenous populations and shaping modern Australian society.

1830 – Ecuador gains its independence from Gran Colombia

On May 13, 1830, Ecuador gained its independence from the Gran Colombia, a republic that had been founded by Simón Bolívar which included modern-day Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador.

The separation was part of the dissolution of Gran Colombia following regional disputes and the desire for local governance. The establishment of Ecuador as a separate sovereign state marked a key moment in the political landscape of South America, setting the stage for its future development as a nation.

1846 – The United States declares war on Mexico after a dispute over Texas, starting the Mexican-American War

The United States declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846, following a period of heightened tension and territorial disputes, especially over the annexation of Texas. The U.S. government claimed that Mexican forces had “invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil.”

The Mexican-American War ensued, resulting in significant territorial changes, with the U.S. gaining over 500,000 square miles of territory (including present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. This war significantly shaped the geopolitical boundaries of North America.

Mexican American War

1861 – The Great Comet of 1861 is discovered by John Tebbutt of Windsor, New South Wales, Australia

The Great Comet of 1861, officially known as C/1861 J1 and often simply referred to as the Great Comet, was discovered by John Tebbutt, an Australian astronomer, on May 13, 1861. This comet is notable for its spectacular appearance and was visible to the naked eye for approximately three months.

It featured a very bright nucleus and a long tail, making it one of the great comets of the 19th century. The comet’s close passage to Earth was a significant event in the astronomical community and it contributed valuable data about the composition and behavior of cometary bodies.

1865 – The final battle of the American Civil War is fought at Palmito Ranch, Texas, a Confederate victory

The Battle of Palmito Ranch, fought on May 12-13, 1865, is considered the last battle of the American Civil War. It took place near Brownsville, Texas, more than a month after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, due to slow communication of the news to Texas.

This battle ended with a Confederate victory, though it had little strategic significance. The engagement is noted for its anachronistic nature, taking place after the effective end of the war, and highlights the widespread nature and chaotic communication lines of the time.

1880 – Thomas Edison performs the first test of his electric railway in Menlo Park, New Jersey

On May 13, 1880, Thomas Edison conducted the first test of his experimental electric railway in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Edison’s work on electric rail transportation was part of his broader interest in electrical engineering and innovation.

The test track was about half a mile long, and the locomotive used was powered by an electric dynamo that ran on a track of standard gauge. This experiment marked a significant early development in the electrification of railway systems, which would become more widespread in the coming decades, revolutionizing public transport.

1888 – Brazil abolishes slavery with the signing of the “Golden Law” by Princess Isabel

Slavery was abolished in Brazil on May 13, 1888, when Princess Isabel signed the “Golden Law,” officially ending the practice in the last country in the Western Hemisphere to do so. This law was the culmination of years of anti-slavery campaigning and a declining economy that could no longer support slavery as a viable institution.

The immediate effect was the liberation of hundreds of thousands of slaves, but the law did not provide for any measures to integrate freed slaves into the society economically and socially, leading to significant challenges in post-abolition Brazil.

1912 – The Royal Flying Corps, the forerunner of the Royal Air Force, is established in the United Kingdom

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was established in the United Kingdom on May 13, 1912. This was the air arm of the British Army before and during World War I, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service in 1918 to form the Royal Air Force (RAF), the first independent air force in the world.

The RFC played a crucial role in the development of aerial warfare tactics and technology. It conducted reconnaissance, provided aerial support to ground forces, and engaged in dogfights with enemy aircraft during the war, highlighting the growing strategic importance of air power in military conflicts.

1917 – Three children in Fátima, Portugal, report seeing visions of the Virgin Mary

On May 13, 1917, in the small village of Fátima, Portugal, three young shepherd children, Lúcia Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the first of several apparitions of the Virgin Mary. She reportedly appeared to the children on the 13th day of each month from May to October 1917.

The Virgin Mary, referred to as Our Lady of Fátima, is said to have entrusted the children with three secrets, pertaining to peace and spiritual teachings.

The apparitions culminated on October 13, 1917, with the “Miracle of the Sun,” witnessed by thousands and subsequently became one of the most famous Marian apparitions in the world, leading Fátima to become a major pilgrimage site.

Queen Wilhelmina

1940 – Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands flees her country for Great Britain after the German invasion

On May 13, 1940, as Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands during World War II, Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government fled to London, England. This move was precipitated by the rapid advancement of German forces and the bombing of Rotterdam, which demonstrated the imminent danger facing the Dutch royal family and government officials.

In exile, Queen Wilhelmina became a symbol of resistance against the Nazis, regularly broadcasting to the Dutch people over Radio Oranje and playing a crucial role in maintaining the morale of her occupied country. Her leadership from abroad helped cement her status as a key figure in Dutch resistance.

1950 – The first round of the Formula One World Championship is held at Silverstone, England

The first round of the Formula One World Championship was held at the Silverstone Circuit in England on May 13, 1950. This event marked the official beginning of Formula One as a structured championship series under the governance of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

The race was won by Giuseppe Farina driving an Alfa Romeo, setting the stage for what would become the premier form of single-seater auto racing globally. This race laid the foundations for the modern era of Formula One, which has grown into a major international sport with a significant following.

1958 – During the Algerian War, French paratroopers capture the revolutionary leader Ahmed Ben Bella

During the Algerian War of Independence against French colonial rule, Ahmed Ben Bella, one of the prominent leaders of the National Liberation Front (FLN), was captured by French paratroopers on May 13, 1958. His capture was a significant event, as Ben Bella was a key figure in the struggle for Algerian independence.

Despite his imprisonment, he would later become the first President of independent Algeria in 1962 after his release. His capture and subsequent political role highlighted the turbulent period of decolonization in North Africa.

1960 – The first launch of a Thor-Delta rocket carries the Echo 1 satellite to orbit

The Thor-Delta, an American expendable launch system, had its first successful launch on May 13, 1960. This launch carried the Echo 1 satellite, which was part of a project to experiment with satellite communication technologies.

The Echo satellite was notable for being a passive communications satellite — essentially a giant metallic balloon that acted as a reflector for radio signals transmitted from the ground. The success of this mission was pivotal in advancing satellite communications, laying the groundwork for future telecommunications and satellite technologies.

1981 – Pope John Paul II is shot and critically wounded by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Ağca in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and seriously wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish gunman, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The Pope was struck by multiple bullets while riding in an open vehicle during his weekly audience.

Despite serious injuries, he survived after undergoing extensive surgery. Pope John Paul II later forgave Ağca and visited him in prison, an act that received worldwide attention for its message of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The motives behind the assassination attempt remain a subject of debate and speculation, involving complex theories about international conspiracies.

1985 – Police drop a bomb on the MOVE compound in Philadelphia to end a standoff, leading to a fire that kills 11 people and destroys over 60 homes

On May 13, 1985, a confrontation between the Philadelphia Police Department and MOVE, a black liberation group, culminated in the police dropping a bomb on the organization’s house in a residential area of West Philadelphia.

The ensuing fire was allowed to burn unchecked for several hours, resulting in the destruction of over 60 homes and the deaths of 11 people, including five children, all members of MOVE.

This tragic incident is remembered for its extreme measures and the heavy-handed tactics used by the police, raising significant questions about racial tensions and police accountability in urban America.

1992 – Three astronauts from the Endeavour Space Shuttle walk in space to repair the Intelsat VI satellite

On May 13, 1992, three astronauts from the Space Shuttle Endeavour conducted a spacewalk to repair the Intelsat VI satellite, which had been stranded in an unusable orbit since its launch in 1990. This mission, STS-49, marked the first time three astronauts spacewalked simultaneously.

The operation was complex and required multiple spacewalks to attach a new rocket motor to boost the satellite to its correct orbit. This mission was one of NASA’s most dramatic and successful satellite rescue missions and demonstrated the capabilities and potential of human spaceflight for orbital repair tasks.

1998 – India conducts three underground atomic tests in Pokhran, including a thermonuclear device

On May 13, 1998, India conducted three underground nuclear tests at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan. These tests included one thermonuclear device and two fission devices, and followed two tests conducted two days earlier.

Collectively known as “Pokhran II,” these tests marked India’s second nuclear test series after its first in 1974. The 1998 tests led to widespread international condemnation and temporary sanctions against India but also positioned India as a nuclear state, significantly altering the strategic dynamics in the region.

2014 – An explosion in Soma, Manisa, Turkey, inside a coal mine, causes 301 workers to die, marking it as the worst mining disaster in Turkish history

On May 13, 2014, an explosion at a coal mine in Soma, Manisa, Turkey, caused an underground mine fire, which resulted in the deaths of 301 workers. This disaster is the worst mining disaster in Turkish history.

The incident brought to light severe safety violations and inadequate emergency response measures in Turkey’s mining industry. It sparked widespread protests and criticism of the government’s handling of industrial safety, leading to calls for better regulations and oversight in labor safety standards across the country.