This Day in History: Oct. 21

On this day, Oct. 21 …
1892: Schoolchildren across the U.S. observe Columbus Day (according to the Gregorian date) by reciting, for the first time, the original version of "The Pledge of Allegiance," written by Francis Bellamy for The Youth's Companion.

Also on this day:

  • 1797: the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides," is christened in Boston's harbor.
  • 1879: Thomas Edison perfects a workable electric light at his laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J.
  • 1917: Members of the 1st Division of the U.S. Army training in Luneville, France, become the first Americans to see action on the front lines of World War I.
  • 1967: Tens of thousands of Vietnam War protesters begin two days of demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
  • 1971: President Richard Nixon nominates Lewis F. Powell and William H. Rehnquist to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Both nominees would be confirmed.)
  • 1976: Saul Bellow wins the Nobel Prize for literature, the first American honored since John Steinbeck in 1962.
  • 1985: Former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White — who'd served five years in prison for killing Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay-rights advocate — is found dead in a garage, a suicide.
  • 1996: President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military survives its first Supreme Court test.
  • 2001: Washington, D.C., postal worker Thomas L. Morris Jr. dies of inhalation anthrax as officials begin testing thousands of postal employees.
  • 2018: A growing caravan of Honduran migrants continue through southern Mexico toward the United States, after getting past Mexican agents who briefly blocked them at the Guatemalan border.