King Charles VI of France orders all Jews expelled from the kingdom

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King Charles VI of France orders the expulsion of all Jews from his kingdom. The culmination of a series of anti-Semitic orders from the monarchs of France, the order outlived the monarchy and remains one of the major contributing factors to the tiny percentage of the French population that identifies as Jewish.

As with most European nations, France had been home to Jews since antiquity. Also as in the rest of Europe, the Jews of France faced frequent discrimination and persecution. French Jews had already suffered through burnings of their religious texts, discriminatory taxes and other fiscal policies targeted at Jews, being scapegoated for the Black Plague, and multiple prior attempts to expel them from France. Various cities in France independently expelled their Jews throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. They were formally expelled from the country 1306 and had their lands confiscated by the government, only to be recalled in 1315 and made to pay for the privilege of returning. Under the rules set in 1315, Jews were ordered not to discuss their religion publicly, made to wear a badge identifying themselves, and cautioned against committing usury, an accusation often leveled at Jews based on racist stereotypes.

For a time, the Crown was happier to have Jews in its lands paying taxes, but in 1394 Charles VI suddenly demanded they leave once again. France’s Jews were given a bit of time to sell to their possessions before being escorted out of French lands. There was not a major Jewish population in France again until the 1700s, when Jews fleeing violence and discrimination further East arrived in Alsace and Lorraine. By the eve of the revolution, there were roughly 40,000 Jews in France. Over the course of the turbulent years that followed 1789, the newly “enlightened” governments gradually restored Jews’ rights to live in France, but they continued to face discrimination and their numbers were further decimated during the Nazi occupation of France. Today, roughly one percent of France is Jewish.

United States imposes the draft

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The Burke-Wadsworth Act is passed by Congress on September 16, 1940, by wide margins in both houses, and the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States is imposed. Selective Service was born.

The registration of men between the ages of 21 and 36 began exactly one month later, as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had been a key player in moving the Roosevelt administration away from a foreign policy of strict neutrality, began drawing draft numbers out of a glass bowl. The numbers were handed to the president, who read them aloud for public announcement. There were some 20 million eligible young men—50 percent were rejected the very first year, either for health reasons or illiteracy (20 percent of those who registered were illiterate).

In November 1942, with the United States now a participant in the war, and not merely a neutral bystander, the draft ages expanded; men 18 to 37 were now eligible. Blacks were passed over for the draft because of racist assumptions about their abilities and the viability of a mixed-race military. But this changed in 1943, when a “quota” was imposed, meant to limit the numbers of blacks drafted to reflect their numbers in the overall population, roughly 10.6 percent of the whole. Initially, blacks were restricted to “labor units,” but this too ended as the war progressed, when they were finally used in combat.

“Conscientious objector” status was granted to those who could demonstrate “sincerity of belief in religious teachings combined with a profound moral aversion to war.” Quakers made up most of the COs, but 75 percent of those Quakers who were drafted fought. COs had to perform alternate service in Civilian Public Service Camps, which entailed long hours of hazardous work for no compensation. About 5,000 to 6,000 men were imprisoned for failing to register or serve the nation in any form; these numbers were comprised mostly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

By war’s end, approximately 34 million men had registered, and 10 million served with the military.

READ MORE: The Draft

William Durant creates General Motors

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On September 16, 1908, Buick Motor Company head William Crapo Durant spends $2,000 to incorporate General Motors in New Jersey. Durant, a high-school dropout, had made his fortune building horse-drawn carriages, and in fact he hated cars–he thought they were noisy, smelly, and dangerous. Nevertheless, the giant company he built would dominate the American auto industry for decades.

In the first years of the 20th century, however, that industry was a mess. There were about 45 different car companies in the United States, most of which sold only a handful of cars each year (and many of which had an unpleasant tendency to take customers’ down payments and then go out of business before delivering a completed automobile). Industrialist Benjamin Briscoe called this way of doing business “manufacturing gambling,” and he proposed a better idea. To build consumer confidence and drive the weakest car companies out of business, he wanted to consolidate the largest and most reliable manufacturers (Ford, REO, his own Maxwell-Briscoe, and Durant’s Buick) into one big company. This idea appealed to Durant (though not to Henry Ford or REO’s Ransom E. Olds), who had made his millions in the carriage business just that way: Instead of selling one kind of vehicle to one kind of customer, Durant’s company had sold carriages and carts of all kinds, from the utilitarian to the luxurious.

But Briscoe wanted to merge all the companies completely into one, while Durant wanted to build a holding company that would leave its individual parts more or less alone. (“Durant is for states’ rights,” Briscoe said. “I am for a union.”) Durant got his way, and the new GM was the opposite of Ford: Instead of just making one car, like the Model T, it produced a wide variety of cars for a wide variety of buyers. In its first two years, GM cobbled together 30 companies, including 11 automakers like Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Oakland (which later became Pontiac), some supplier firms, and even an electric company.

Buying all these companies was too expensive for the fledgling GM, and in 1911 the corporation’s board forced the spendthrift Durant to quit. He started a new car company with the Chevrolet brothers and was able to buy enough GM stock to regain control of the corporation in 1916, but his profligate ways got the better of him and he was forced out again in 1920. During the Depression, Durant went bankrupt, and he spent his last years managing a bowling alley in Flint. 

READ MORE: The Cars That Made America 

Settlers race to claim land in Oklahoma

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On September 16, 1893, the largest land run in history begins with more than 100,000 people pouring into the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to claim valuable land that had once belonged to Native Americans. With a single shot from a pistol the mad dash began, and land-hungry pioneers on horseback and in carriages raced forward to stake their claims to the best acres.

Ironically, not many years before that same land had once been considered worthless desert. Early explorers of Oklahoma believed that the territory was too arid and treeless for white settlement, but several suggested it might be the perfect place to resettle Native Americans, whose rich and fertile lands in the southeast were increasingly coveted by Americans. The U.S. government later took this advice and began removing eastern tribes like the Cherokee and Choctaw to Oklahoma Territory in 1817. No more eager than the whites to leave their green and well-watered lands for the arid plains, some Native Americans resisted and had to be removed by force-most tragically, the 4,000 Cherokee who died during the brutal overland march known appropriately as the “Trail of Tears.”

READ MORE: How Native Americans Struggled to Survive on the Trail of Tears

By 1885, a diverse mixture of Native American tribes had been pushed onto reservations in eastern Oklahoma and promised that the land would be theirs “as long as the grass grows and the water runs.” Yet even this seemingly marginal land did not long escape the attention of land-hungry Americans. By the late nineteenth century, farmers had developed new methods that suddenly made the formerly reviled Plains hugely valuable. Pressure steadily increased to open the Native lands to settlement, and in 1889, President Benjamin Harrison succumbed and threw open large areas of unoccupied Native American lands to white settlement. The giant Cherokee Strip rush was only the largest of a series of massive “land runs” that began in the 1890s, with thousands of immigrants stampeding into Oklahoma Territory and establishing towns like Norman and Oklahoma City almost overnight.

READ MORE: Remembering the Oklahoma Land Rush

Muhammad Ali wins world heavyweight championship

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On September 15, 1978, boxer Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans to win the world heavyweight boxing title for the third time in his career, the first fighter ever to do so. Following his victory, Ali retired from boxing, only to make a brief comeback two years later. Ali, who once claimed he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” left the sport permanently in 1981.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 14, 1942, the future world champ changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after converting to Islam. He earned a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and made his professional boxing debut against Tunney Husaker in October 1960, winning the bout in six rounds. On February 25, 1964, Ali defeated the heavily favored Sonny Liston in six rounds to become heavyweight champ, after which he famously declared, “I am the greatest!”

During the Vietnam War, Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. armed forces and in 1967 was convicted of draft evasion and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring in October 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career. In June 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction for evading the draft.

READ MORE: Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America

At a January 1974 rematch at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Ali defeated Frazier in 12 rounds. In October of that same year, an underdog Ali bested George Foreman and reclaimed his heavyweight champion belt at the heavily hyped “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire, with a knockout in the eighth round. On February 15, 1978, in Las Vegas, an aging Ali lost the title to Leon Spinks in a 15-round split decision. For Spinks, who was born in 1953 and won a gold medal in boxing at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the fight was just the eighth of his professional career. However, seven months later, on September 15, Ali won the title back, in a unanimous 15-round decision.

In June 1979, Ali announced he was retiring from boxing. On October 2, 1980, he returned to the ring and fought heavyweight champ Larry Holmes, who knocked him out in the 11th round. After losing to Trevor Berbick on December 11, 1981, Ali left the ring for the last time, with a record of 56 wins, five losses and 37 knockouts. In 1984, he was revealed to have Parkinson’s disease. Ali died on June 3, 2016. Spinks retired from boxing in 1995 with a record of 26 wins, 17 losses and 14 knockouts.

Millions flee from Hurricane Floyd

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Millions of people evacuate their homes as Hurricane Floyd moves across the Atlantic Ocean on September 14, 1999. Over the next several days, deaths are recorded from the Bahamas to New England due to the powerful storm.

Floyd began as a tropical storm on September 7 and attained hurricane status three days later. By September 12, its winds had reached 140 miles per hour as the storm approached the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Floyd skirted past these islands, though, leaving relatively minor damage in its wake.

On September 14, Floyd approached the Bahamas and looked to be on a collision course with central Florida. Walt Disney World closed its doors in preparation for the first time in its history and NASA operations at Cape Canaveral were shut down to get ready for the coming storm. In all, approximately 3 million people evacuated their homes. Meanwhile, the Bahamas were spared a direct hit and, although millions of dollars in damages were incurred, only one person was killed.

Gaining strength over the warm waters of the Caribbean, Floyd was a Category 4 storm when it hit the Florida coast the next day. It turned out to be North Carolina that bore the brunt of Floyd, however, as it landed a direct hit on the state’s Cape Fear region. Torrential rains caused flooding that ended in the drowning deaths of 56 people and 6,000 houses were lost to the storm. Floyd brought rain and flooding with it all the way up the Eastern seaboard to Connecticut. In all, 68 people died from Hurricane Floyd. Out of deference to the destruction it caused, the National Hurricane Center retired the name “Floyd” in the spring of 2000.

READ MORE: 5 Times Hurricanes Changed History

Hollywood star and real-life princess Grace Kelly dies

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On September 14, 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco—the American-born former film star Grace Kelly, whose movie credits include The Country Girl and Rear Window—dies at the age of 52 from injuries suffered after her car plunged off a mountain road near Monte Carlo. During the height of her Hollywood career in the 1950s, Kelly became an international icon of beauty and glamour.

Kelly, the daughter of a former model and a wealthy industrialist, was born on November 12, 1929, in Philadelphia, and began acting as a child. After high school, she attended the American Academy for Dramatic Arts in New York. While she auditioned for Broadway plays, the classic blonde beauty supported herself by modeling and appearing in TV commercials.

In 1949, Kelly debuted on Broadway in The Father by August Strindberg. Two years later, she landed her first Hollywood bit part, in Fourteen Hours. Her big break came in 1952, when she starred as Gary Cooper’s wife in the Western High Noon. Her performance in 1954’s The Country Girl, as the wife of an alcoholic actor and singer played by Bing Crosby, won her a Best Actress Oscar (Kelly beat out Judy Garland in A Star is Born). Among Kelly’s other acting credits were three Alfred Hitchcock thrillers: Dial M for Murder (1954), with Ray Milland and Robert Cummings, Rear Window (1954), with James Stewart, and To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant. Her last big-screen role was in 1956’s High Society, a musical adaptation of 1940’s The Philadelphia Story, co-starring Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

Kelly gave up her acting career after marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923-2005) on April 19, 1956, in a lavish ceremony in Monaco. The couple, who had met the year before at the Cannes Film Festival, went on to have three children. On September 13, 1982, Princess Grace was driving with her youngest daughter, Stephanie, when she reportedly suffered a stroke and lost control of her car, which plunged down a mountainside. Seventeen-year-old Stephanie survived, but Princess Grace died the following day. Her death was mourned by millions of fans around the world.

John Steinbeck awarded the Medal of Freedom

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Writer John Steinbeck was presented the U.S. Medal of Freedom on September 14, 1964. Steinbeck had already received numerous other honors and awards for his writing, including the 1962 Nobel Prize and a 1939 Pulitzer Prize for Grapes of Wrath.

Steinbeck, a native Californian, studied writing intermittently at Stanford between 1920 and 1925 but never graduated. He moved to New York and worked as a manual laborer and journalist while writing his first two novels, which were not successful. He married in 1930 and moved back to California with his wife. His father, a government official in Salinas County, gave the couple a house to live in while Steinbeck continued writing.

His first novel, Tortilla Flat, about the comic antics of several rootless drifters who share a house in California, was published in 1935. The novel became a financial success.

Steinbeck’s next works, In Dubious Battle and Of Mice and Men, were both successful, and in 1938 his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath was published. The novel, about the struggles of an Oklahoma family who lose their farm and become fruit pickers in California, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

After World War II, Steinbeck’s work became more sentimental in such novels as Cannery Row and The Pearl. He also wrote several successful films, including Forgotten Village (1941) and Viva Zapata (1952). He became interested in marine biology and published a nonfiction book, The Sea of Cortez, in 1941. His travel memoir, Travels with Charlie, describes his trek across the United States in a camper. Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962 and died in New York in 1968.

READ MORE: The Presidential Medal of Freedom Began as a World War II Honor

North and South clash at the Battle of South Mountain

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General Robert E. Lee’s exhausted Confederate forces hold off the pursuing Yankees by closing two passes through Maryland’s South Mountain, allowing Lee time to gather his forces further west along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg.

After the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, in late August 1862, Lee decided to invade Maryland to raise supplies; he also hoped a decisive win would earn the South foreign recognition. As he moved, he split his army into five sections while the hungry Rebels searched for supplies. A copy of the Confederate plans accidentally fell into Union hands when the orders were left in an abandoned campsite outside of Frederick, Maryland. McClellan now knew that Lee’s force was in pieces, but he was slow to react.

As Lee moved into western Maryland, he left detachments to guard Crampton’s Gap and Turner’s Gap through South Mountain. If McClellan had penetrated the passes, he would have found Lee’s army scattered and vulnerable. South Mountain, a 50-mile-long ridge, contained several passes, but Crampton’s Gap and Turner’s Gap were the most important. The National Road ran through Turner’s Gap to the north, and Crampton’s Gap connected western Maryland to Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

The Union troops drove the Confederates away at Crampton’s Gap, but were initially unable to expel the Confederates from Turner’s Gap. However, the Rebels did retreat the next morning. Union losses for the day amounted to 2,300 dead and wounded, including the death of Major General Jesse Reno. The Confederates lost 2,700.

These engagements were a mere prelude to the Battle of Antietam. Although costly, they allowed Lee time to assemble his scattered bands at Sharpsburg.