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Seven Times Major Historical Events ‘Out-Historied’ Other History-Defining Moments

Photo Credit: 1. Earl Leaf / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images 2. Carlito / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: 1. Earl Leaf / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images 2. Carlito / MovieStillsDB

History is made every day and, sometimes, multiple historical events occur on the same date. As a result, some are more well-known than others, with certain events completely lost to history. Below is a list of seven occurrences that were outshined by others.

The Great Chicago and Peshtigo fires occurred on the same day

The Great Chicago Fire started on October 8, 1871 and burned for two days. It began on the west side of the city, at the home of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. However, it’s unclear how it happened. Theories of vandals, milk thieves, a drunken neighbor and even a cow kicking over a lantern are thought to have possibly started the blaze.

Drawing of people in a rowboat, with Chicago in the background
Fleeing the Great Chicago Fire. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

The fire quickly roared out of control, and it was not long before it swept toward the northern and eastern parts of Chicago. By the time the blaze was brought under control, 300 people were dead, with over 100,000 left homeless. Looting and crime increased shortly thereafter, forcing city officials to declare martial law on October 11, 1871.

The Great Chicago Fire received a lot of media attention and completely eclipsed the most devastating forest fire in US history. The Peshtigo Fire broke out in northeastern Wisconsin on the same night and is thought to have been started by railway workers clearing land. It didn’t help that the summer had been particularly dry, meaning the area was ripe for a forest fire by the time October came around.

Drawing of people fleeing a raging fire
Fleeing the Peshtigo Fire. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

The fire was described as having moved like a tornado, spreading to eight counties and even parts of Michigan. Peshtigo was essentially destroyed, and somewhere between 1,200 and 2,400 people perished. The fire was so bad that some believed it was the end of the world.

A POW ship sank days after Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth

While watching a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC on April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, and succumbed to his injuries early the next morning. His body was taken on a funeral train tour through hundreds of towns and viewed by as many as one million people.

At the end of the tour, he was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois.

Sultana on the Mississippi River
Sultana on the Mississippi River the day before the explosion. (Photo Credit: Civil War Glass Negatives / Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

On the day the funeral tour arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, thousands of Union prisoners of war boarded the Sultana, a steamboat that ran along the Mississippi River. The crew crowded the boat with between 2,100 and 2,500 men, surpassing its capacity of 376 passengers.

The excess weight, along with choppy waters, caused one of the steamboat’s boilers to explode. Almost immediately, the explosion took the lives of hundreds of passengers, while others desperately jumped into the water. Unfortunately, many were too weak, due to their prior imprisonment, and died. An estimated 1,800 are said to have perished from drowning, hypothermia or injuries caused by the explosion.

Michael Jackson’s death overshadowed Farrah Fawcett’s

When Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, music fans around the world were shocked. At only 50 years old, no one could have imagined he would go into cardiac arrest. An autopsy revealed the cause was prescription medication provided by his doctor, Conrad Murray, and his death was ruled a homicide.

From the moment Jackson passed, his death was highly reported in the media.

Michael Jackson performing on stage
Michael Jackson performing in Rotterdam, 1992. (Photo Credit: GARCIA / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images)

The same day as Jackson’s death, actress Farrah Fawcett also passed. Best known for her role as Jill Munroe on Charlie’s Angels, she was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and was, at one point, thought to have overcome the disease. Unfortunately, following a second recurrence in 2007, she succumbed to cancer at the age of 62.

Farrah Fawcett sitting in grass
Farrah Fawcett. (Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Many believe Fawcett would have been okay with Jackson’s death taking the spotlight. A friend of hers once said, “I always had the sense that Farrah would kind of be getting a laugh out of that and saying ‘Thank God, they’re over there, finally. They’re leaving me alone. The paparazzi, the reporters, the news cameras.'”

Jackie Robinson’s first MLB game occurred a day before the Texas City disaster

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson took to the field for the first time as a professional MLB player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, officially breaking the color barrier. The game was played in front of more than 25,000 fans at Ebbets Field.

Jackie Robinson holding a baseball bat
Jackie Robinson during baseball practice. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Robinson’s first game received a lot of media attention, as did his signing to the Brooklyn Dodgers five days earlier. Anti-segregationists in the US supported his perseverance both on and off the diamond, and he quickly became a hero.

Taking much of the spotlight during that time, coverage of Robinson’s first game eclipsed one of the largest industrial disasters in US history. While docked in Texas, the SS Grandcamp, carrying 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate, blew up in the port of Texas City. The initial explosion was severe and triggered additional explosions on the dock and at a nearby Monsanto plant.

Plumes of black smoke over Texas City
Texas City Disaster. (Photo Credit: Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone / Getty Images)

The flames from the explosion lasted for several days and claimed the lives of between 500 and 600 people. An estimated 3,000 others were injured from the destruction caused by the disaster.

Frank Sinatra died on the same night the Seinfeld series finale aired

On May 14, 1998, approximately 72 million people gathered around their televisions to watch the series finale of Seinfeld. After nine successful seasons, the show was coming to an end, and dedicated fans watched as the very last episode became the most disappointing of them all.

Cast of 'Seinfeld' hugging each other
Seinfeld, 1989-98. (Photo Credit: Darcy / MovieStillsDB)

Crooner Frank Sinatra suffered a heart attack that same night. He was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but at 10:50 PM was pronounced dead at the age of 82.

One of the viewers of Seinfeld’s series finale was actually Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy. Tuning into the lackluster episode actually prevented her from being at her father’s home at the time of his heart attack, which she’d originally planned to do. Nancy said, “Seinfeld reruns started prior to the Seinfeld finale – isn’t this tacky – and I got so involved watching that damn show that I never got over to my dad’s.”

Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel a day after the Titanic sank

April 15, 1912 is remembered as the day the Titanic sank. Not only is the disaster memorable, but the names of the passengers onboard the vessel are also widely known. Media coverage was seen on both sides of the Atlantic for weeks, and many were unaware that another historical event occurred the day after the disaster.

Sketch of the Titanic sinking
Titanic sinking off the coast of Newfoundland. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Harriet Quimby was a journalist from New York who began flying in 1911. By the summer, she became the first American woman to obtain her pilot’s license and, later, the first woman to fly at night.

On April 16, 1912, she successfully flew across the English Channel, flying from England to France. During her flight, gas flooded the plane’s engine and she feared she would not successfully complete the trip. Luckily, the gas quickly burned away and the engine remained adequate for flying.

Harriet Quimby sitting on the wing of a Moisant monoplane
Harriet Quimby. (Photo Credit: APIC / Getty Images)

After making history for a third time, Quimby continued to fly, but died in an accident at an aviation meet in Boston, Massachusetts on July 1, 1912.

C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died the same day JFK was assassinated

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The attack shocked the world, and many still remember where they were and exactly what they were doing when they heard the news.

John F. and Jackie Kennedy sitting in the back of an open-topped car
John F. and Jackie Kennedy riding in the Dallas, Texas motorcade, prior to JFK’s assassination. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

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Such an unexpected and devastating event caused most people to overlook the deaths of two of the most prolific authors of the 20th century.

Aldous Huxley, known for Brave New World, and C.S. Lewis, known for The Chronicles of Narnia, both died that day. Huxley passed away in his Los Angeles home at the age of 69, while Lewis died in Oxford at 64. The latter apparently passed less than an hour before JFK’s assassination, and Huxley died roughly eight hours after Lewis.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!