May 20th in American History: 2 Posts Over 2 Days Honoring Random Dates Because Why Not?

May 20th in American History: 2 Posts Over 2 Days Honoring Random Dates Because Why Not?

May 20, 2024

I still have coffee in my cup and the jazz is going, so why not?

After finding such cool stuff about May 19th, I decided to set up a post for May 20th in American history! While the May 19th "day in history post" was listed as a Sunday read for any day of the week, I'm dropping a little water-cooler talk for you since May 20, 2024 falls on a Monday. Do y'all in 9-5 life still call it water-cooler talk? Maybe that should be a blog post: something about the pandemic and water-cooler talk changing over to Zoom-chatter?


Enough time spent on the semantics, let's hit the history!


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Clock at Charlton Coffeehouse, 2023, Colonial Williamsburg


Historical summary of May 20th.

  • 1506- Since I did a nod to England for May 19th, I'm doing one to Spain as well! Christopher Columbus - who some may not want to honor, and that's ok, this is about history, not politics, died on May 20th. Also lost to the earthly world on this date: the Marquis de Lafayette in 1834. My favorite Frenchman. He is buried in France next to his wife but insisted on American soil being brought to France so he may be buried in it. Click here to learn more about this hero of American history.
  • 1734- The first jockey club was formed in South Carolina and horse racing was off and running in the Colonies. Read more here.
  • 1774- A bad day for the Colonies, that led to our independence: English Parliament and King George III responded to Boston's "tea party" with the Coercive Acts - commonly known around here as the Intolerable Acts. Read more on Mount Vernon's site by clicking here and get a taste of how CW interprets history by reading my VA 250 post.
  • 1873- Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis got the patent for blue jeans. Life-changing for the United States in my opinion. And I actually wrote a post about leather breeches and the entrance of blue jeans into our culture. (and it gets Google traffic!). Click here to read it.
  • 1908- One of the all-time best actors (in my opinion!) was born: Jimmy Stewart entered the world in the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania. I'm seriously disappointed that when I was passing through years ago on a work-related trip, the museum was closed. Also born on this date: Architect of our U.S. Capitol Building, William Thornton in 1759 and in 1768, First Lady Dolley Madison, wife of our 4th President and founding father James Madison. Read the book about the Madisons and the war we rarely hear about by clicking here.
  • 1927- Aviator Charles Lindbergh got into the Spirit of St. Louis and headed over the ocean from Long Island, New York. Historic indeed: the first solo flight over the Atlantic. Check out the details of his flight and agenda by clicking here.
  • 1998- A true American treasure and one of the most incredible voices to live on in history, Frank Sinatra, was laid to rest. Click here to read an account of his funeral from that date in 1998.
  • 2015- The end of an era (for us GenXer's at least!). David Letterman stepped down from his iconic Late Show With David Letterman, ending the TOP 10 lists as we knew them- you remember: those lists that gave us conversation starters, bar jokes, and references to all kinds of fun facts. Grab his book here. (no shame, my blog life means affiliate income!)


Corner view of reconstructed Capitol Building, CW.


Closing it out.

You can use the links above to get more information on any of the events I listed. And please share any of your May 20th events in the comments! Or you can subscribe and get connected with me by email- I would love that.


And as always, giving you a glimpse into American history through primary-sourced words from our past. One of my favorite relationships to read about: George Washington and his close friend for life: Bryan Fairfax, Loyalist. In this excerpt, Washington is discussing the "Intolerable Acts." Click here to read in full.


From George Washington to Bryan Fairfax, 20 July 1774




To Bryan Fairfax

Mount Vernon July 20th 1774.

Dear Sir,

Your Letter of the 17th was not presented to me till after the Resolution’s (which were adjudg’d

(letter continues)


That I differ very widely from you, in respect to the mode of obtaining a repeal of the Acts so much, & so justly complaind of, I shall not hesitate to acknowledge; & that this difference in opinion may, probably, proceed from the different Construction’s we put upon the Conduct, & Intention of the Ministry, may also be true; But as I see nothing on the one hand, to induce a belief that the Parliament would embrace a favourable oppertunity of Repealing Acts which they go on with great rapidity to pass, in order to enforce their Tyrannical System; and on the other, observe, or think I observe, that Government is pursuing a regular Plan at the expence of Law & justice, to overthrow our Constitutional Rights & liberties, how can I expect any redress from a Measure which hath been ineffectually tryd already—For Sir what is it we are contending against? Is it against paying the duty of 3d. pr lb. on Tea because burthensome? No, it is the Right only, we have all along disputed, & to this end we have already Petitiond his Majesty in as humble, & dutiful a manner as Subjects could do; nay more, we applied to the House of Lords, & House of Commons in their different Legislative Capacities setting forth that, as Englishmen, we could not be deprivd of this essential, & valuable part of our Constitution;


(letter continues- click here to read in full with citations)




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There is a huge practical disclaimer to the content on this blog, which is my way of sharing my excitement and basically journaling online.


1) I am not a historian nor an expert. I will let you know I’m relaying the information as I understand and interpret it. The employees of Colonial Williamsburg base their presentations, work, and responses on historical documents and mainly primary sources.

2) I will update for accuracy as history is constant learning. If you have a question about accuracy, please ask me! I will get the answer from the best source I can find.

3) Photo credit to me, Daphne Reznik, for all photos in this post, unless otherwise credited! All photos are personal photos taken in public access locations or with specific permission.