Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
September 18 is the 261st day of the year (262nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 104 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.
96 – Nerva is proclaimed Roman Emperor after Domitian is assassinated.
324 – Constantine the Great decisively defeats Licinius in the Battle of Chrysopolis, establishing Constantine’s sole control over the Roman Empire.
1180 – Philip Augustus becomes king of France.
1454 – In the Battle of Chojnice, the Polish army is defeated by the Teutonic army during the Thirteen Years’ War.
1502 – Christopher Columbus lands at Costa Rica on his fourth, and final, voyage.
1635 – Emperor Ferdinand II declares war on France.
1679 – New Hampshire becomes a county of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1739 – The Treaty of Belgrade is signed, ceding Belgrade to the Ottoman Empire.
1759 – The British capture Quebec City.
1793 – The first cornerstone of the Capitol building is laid by George Washington.
1809 – The Royal Opera House in London opens.
1810 – First Government Junta in Chile. Though supposed to rule only in the absence of the king, it is in fact the first step towards independence from Spain, and is commemorated as such.
1812 – The 1812 Fire of Moscow dies down after destroying more than three quarters of the city. Napoleon returns from the Petrovsky Palace to the Moscow Kremlin, spared from the fire.
1837 – Tiffany and Co. (first named Tiffany & Young) is founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York City. The store is called a “stationery and fancy goods emporium”.
1838 – The Anti-Corn Law League is established by Richard Cobden.
1850 – The U.S. Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
1851 – First publication of The New-York Daily Times, which later becomes The New York Times.
1870 – Old Faithful Geyser is observed and named by Henry D. Washburn during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition to Yellowstone.
1872 – King Oscar II accedes to the throne of Sweden-Norway.
1882 – The Pacific Stock Exchange opens.
1885 – Riots break out in Montreal to protest against compulsory smallpox vaccination.
1895 – Booker T. Washington delivers the “Atlanta Compromise” address.
1895 – Daniel David Palmer gives the first chiropractic adjustment.
1898 – Fashoda Incident – Lord Kitchener’s ships reach Fashoda, Sudan.
1906 – A typhoon with tsunami kills an estimated 10,000 people in Hong Kong.
1911 – Russian Premier Peter Stolypin is shot at the Kiev Opera House.
1914 – The Irish Home Rule Act becomes law, but is delayed until after World War I.
1914 – World War I: South African troops land in German South West Africa.
1919 – The Netherlands gives women the right to vote.
1919 – Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros.
1922 – Hungary is admitted to League of Nations.
1927 – The Columbia Broadcasting System goes on the air.
1931 – The Mukden Incident gives Japan the pretext to invade and occupy Manchuria.
1934 – The USSR is admitted to League of Nations.
1942 – The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is authorized.
1943 – World War II: The Jews of Minsk are massacred at Sobibor.
1943 – World War II: Adolf Hitler orders the deportation of Danish Jews.
1944 – World War II: The British submarine HMS Tradewind torpedoes Junyo Maru, 5,600 killed.
1945 – General Douglas MacArthur moves his command headquarters to Tokyo.
1947 – The United States Air Force becomes an independent branch of the United States armed forces.
1948 – Communist Madiun uprising in Dutch Indies.
1948 – Margaret Chase Smith of Maine becomes the first woman elected to the US Senate without completing another senator’s term, when she defeats Democratic opponent Adrian Scolten.
1959 – Vanguard 3 is launched into Earth orbit.
1960 – Fidel Castro arrives in New York City as the head of the Cuban delegation to the United Nations.
1961 – U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold dies in a plane crash while attempting to negotiate peace in the war-torn Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
1962 – Burundi, Jamaica, Rwanda and Trinidad and Tobago are admitted to the United Nations.
1964 – Constantine II of Greece marries Danish princess Anne-Marie.
1964 – North Vietnamese Army begins infiltration of South Vietnam.
1973 – The Bahamas, East Germany and West Germany are admitted to the United Nations.
1974 – Hurricane Fifi strikes Honduras with 110 mph winds, killing 5,000 people.
1975 – Patty Hearst is arrested after a year on the FBI Most Wanted List.
1977 – Voyager I takes first photograph of the Earth and the Moon together.
1978 – Leaders of Israel and Egypt reach a settlement for the Middle East at Camp David.
1980 – Soyuz 38 carries 2 cosmonauts
(including 1 Cuban) to Salyut 6 space station.
1981 – Assemblee Nationale votes to abolish capital punishment in France.
1982 – Christian militia begin killing six-hundred Palestinians in Lebanon.
1984 – Joe Kittinger completes the first solo balloon crossing of the Atlantic.
1988 – End of pro-democracy uprisings in Myanmar after a bloody military coup by the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Thousands, mostly monks and civilians (primarily students) are killed by the Tatmadaw.
1990 – Liechtenstein becomes a member of the United Nations.
1991 – Yugoslavia begins a naval blockade of 7 Adriatic port cities.
1992 – An explosion rocks Giant Mine at the height of a labor dispute, killing 9 replacement workers.
1998 – ICANN is formed.
2001 – First mailing of anthrax letters from Trenton, New Jersey in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
2007 – Pervez Musharraf announces that he will step down as army chief and restore civilian rule to Pakistan, but only after he is re-elected president.
2007 – Buddhist monks join anti-government protesters in Myanmar, starting what some called the Saffron Revolution.
2009 – The 72 year run of the soap opera The Guiding Light ends as its final episode is broadcast.