In 41 AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated by his own Praetorian Guards. He reigned from 37 AD to 41 AD, and was the second emperor to rule after Augustus Caesar. His extravagance led to a financial crisis in 39 AD; historians believe that he fined or even killed people in order to seize their estates. A famine resulted. People who were alive during his reign say that at one gladiator games, he had a section of the crowd thrown into the arena to be eaten by animals because he was bored, and there were no criminals to be killed. He planned to make his horse a consul (but ended up making him a priest instead). The nobility and Senate did not like his actions. Several conspiracies were put together to try to get rid of him, but they all failed until the plot on 41 AD succeeded.
If you've ever been to St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, you have seen one of Caligula's few positive accomplishments that exist to this day. Caligula brought the obelisk that is in the middle of the square from Alexandria to Rome. Pope Sixtus V moved the obelisk from Rome to its present location in 1586.
On this day in 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California. This would mark the beginning of the California Gold Rush. News traveled slowly about this find (after all, people did travel by horses and wagons in those days). The first wave of people started arriving in late 1848; but the majority of the gold prospectors started arriving in 1849 (which is where the term "forty-niner" comes from). As a result of the gold rush, San Francisco grew into a city, people made (or lost) fortunes, and California eventually became a state a lot faster than it otherwise would have (it was granted statehood in 1850).
Most people that make a decent income hate April 15th (although people in the lower income brackets and those that get a substantial refund don't mind it so much). On this day in 1916, the Supreme Court's Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad decision declared that the Federal Income Tax was indeed constitutional. You can thank this decision for the majority of the income that is taken out of your paycheck, or any money that you'll have to send to the government in the next few months.
Two separate events that occurred on this day resulted in radioactive material being spread throughout North America. The first event occurred in 1961, when a bomber carrying two nuclear weapons broke up in mid-air while flying over North Carolina. One of the bombs was fully recovered; the other one is believed to be located about 55 feet under the ground (it was never recovered completely due to ground water flooding). The other event happened in 1978, when a Soviet satellite called Cosmos 954 burned up in the Earth's atmosphere; there was a nuclear reactor onboard. About 1% of the radioactive debris was recovered; the rest was scattered all over Canada, in the Northwest Territories.
During the Superbowl in 1984, a commercial advertising Apple's latest invention, the Macintosh computer, whet people's appetites for a different kind of computer. On this day of that year, the computer went on sale. Although Apple's Lisa was the first computer to have a mouse and a graphical user interface, the Macintosh would become the first computer with these features to be a commercial success. You can still buy one today.
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