1840 – The first official adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, is issued in the United Kingdom.
In 1837, British postal rates were high, complex and anomalous. To simplify matters, Sir Rowland Hill proposed an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 1⁄2 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance.
Postal delivery systems using what may have been adhesive stamps existed before the Penny Black. The idea had at least been suggested earlier in the Austrian Empire, Sweden, and possibly Greece.
1884 – Moses Walker becomes the first black person to play in a US professional baseball game.
In mid-1883, Walker left his studies at Michigan and was signed to his first professional baseball contract by William Voltz, manager of the minor league Toledo Blue Stockings, a Northwestern League team. As a former sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Voltz watched Walker play for Oberlin; his signing reunited Walker with his former battery-mate Burket. Though Walker hit in decent numbers, recording a .251 BA, he became revered for his play behind the plate and his durability during an era where catchers wore little to no protective equipment. The Blue Stockings’ ball boy recalled Walker “occasionally wore ordinary lambskin gloves with the fingers slit and slightly padded in the palm; more often he caught barehanded”. Nonetheless, he played in 60 of Toledo’s 84 games during their championship season. At the core of the team’s success, one sportswriter at Sporting Life pointed out, were Walker and pitcher Hank O’Day, which he considered “one of the most remarkable batteries in the country”
Walker’s entrance into professional baseball caused immediate friction in the league. Before he had the opportunity to appear in a game, the executive committee of the Northwestern League debated a motion proposed by the representative of the Peoria, Illinois club that would prohibit all colored ball players from entering the league. After intense arguments, the motion was dropped, allowing Walker to play. On August 10, 1883, in an exhibition against the Chicago White Stockings, Chicago’s manager Cap Anson refused to play if Walker was in the lineup. In response, Charlie Morton, who replaced Voltz as Toledo’s manager at mid-season, challenged Anson’s ultimatum by not only warning him of the risk of forfeiting gate receipts, but also by starting Walker at right field. Anson is alleged to have said “We’ll play this here game, but won’t play never no more with the nigger in”. The White Stockings won in extra innings 7–6.
1886 – Labor rallies are held throughout the United States, ending in the violent Haymarket affair. The riots would subsequently be remembered by the establishment of International Workers’ Day.
Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labour movements grew, a variety of days were chosen by trade unionists as a day to celebrate labour. In the United States and Canada, a September holiday, called Labor or Labour Day, was first proposed in the 1880s. In 1882, Matthew Maguire, a machinist, first proposed a Labor Day holiday on the first Monday of September[ while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York. Others argue that it was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882, after witnessing the annual labour festival held in Toronto, Canada. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty US states officially celebrated Labor Day. Thus by 1887 in North America, Labour Day was an established, official holiday but in September, not on 1 May.
1 May was chosen to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. In that year beginning on 1 May, there was a general strike for the eight-hour workday. On 4 May, the police acted to disperse a public assembly in support of the strike when an unidentified person threw a bomb. The police responded by firing on the workers. The event lead to the death of eight and injury of sixty police officers as well as an unknown number of civilian killed or wounded.Hundreds of labour leaders and sympathizers were later rounded-up and four were executed by hanging, after a trial that was seen as a miscarriage of justice.[nb 2] The following day on 5 May in Milwaukee Wisconsin, the state militia fired on a crowd of strikers killing seven, including a schoolboy and a man feeding chickens in his yard.
1931 – The Empire State Building is dedicated to the city of New York.
The Empire State Building was officially opened on May 1, 1931, forty five days ahead of its projected opening date, by United States President Herbert Hoover, who turned on the building’s lights with the ceremonial button push from Washington, D.C.. Over 350 guests attended the opening ceremony, and following luncheon, at the 86th floor including Jimmy Walker, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Al Smith. An account from that day stated that the view from the luncheon was obscured by a fog, with other landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty being “lost in the mist”. The building officially opened the next day. Advertisements for the observatories were placed in local newspapers, while nearby hotels also released advertisements that lauded their proximity to the newly opened tower.
According to The New York Times, builders and real estate speculators predicted that the 1,250-foot-tall (380 m) Empire State Building would be the world’s tallest building “for many years”, thus ending the great New York City skyscraper rivalry. At the time, most engineers agreed that it would be difficult to build a building taller than 1,200 feet (370 m), even with the hardy Manhattan bedrock as a foundation. (Technically, it was believed possible to build a tower of up to 2,000 feet (610 m), but it was deemed uneconomical to do so, especially during the Great Depression.) As the tallest building in the world, at that time, and the first one to exceed 100 floors, the Empire State Building became an icon of the city and, ultimately, of the nation.
The Empire State Building’s opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space was vacant from its opening. In the first year, only 23% of the available space was rented, as compared to the early 1920s, where the average building would have occupancy of 52% upon opening and 90% rented within five years. The lack of renters led New Yorkers to deride the building as the “Empty State Building”.
1956 – The polio vaccine, which was developed by Jonas Salk, is made available to the public.
The first effective polio vaccine was developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk and a team at the University of Pittsburgh that included Julius Youngner, Byron Bennett, L. James Lewis, and Lorraine Friedman, which required years of subsequent testing. Salk went on CBS radio to report a successful test on a small group of adults and children on 26 March 1953; two days later the results were published in JAMA. Beginning 23 February 1954, the vaccine was tested at Arsenal Elementary School and the Watson Home for Children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Salk’s vaccine was then used in a test called the Francis Field Trial, led by Thomas Francis, the largest medical experiment in history at that time. The test began with approximately 4,000 children at Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia,and would eventually involve 1.8 million children, in 44 states from Maine to California.By the conclusion of the study, roughly 440,000 received one or more injections of the vaccine, about 210,000 children received a placebo, consisting of harmless culture media, and 1.2 million children received no vaccination and served as a control group, who would then be observed to see if any contracted polio.