Today in History: Feb. 20, John Glenn becomes first American to orbit the Earth


In 1792, President George Washington signed an act creating the United States Post Office Department.

In 1862, William Wallace Lincoln, the 11-year-old son of President Abraham Lincoln and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, died at the White House, apparently of typhoid fever.

In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upheld, 7-2, compulsory vaccination laws intended to protect the public’s health.

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an immigration act which excluded “idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons” from being admitted to the United States.

In 1933, Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to repeal Prohibition.

In 1938, Anthony Eden resigned as British foreign secretary following Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s decision to negotiate with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

In 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth as he flew aboard Project Mercury’s Friendship 7 spacecraft, which circled the globe three times in a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds before splashing down safely in the Atlantic Ocean 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.

In 1965, America’s Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon, as planned, after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface.

In 1987, a bomb left by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski exploded behind a computer store in Salt Lake City, seriously injuring store owner Gary Wright.

In 1998, Tara Lipinski of the U.S. won the ladies’ figure skating gold medal at the Nagano Olympics; Michelle Kwan won the silver.

In 2003, a fire sparked by pyrotechnics broke out during a concert by the group Great White at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 people and injuring about 200 others.

In 2005, death claimed actor Sandra Dee at age 62; musical actor John Raitt at age 88; and counterculture writer Hunter S. Thompson at age 67.

In 2020, a poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found more Americans expressing some concern about catching the flu than about catching the coronavirus.

In 2021, Naomi Osaka won her fourth Grand Slam trophy by pulling away to beat Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 in the Australian Open final.


Racing Hall of Famer Roger Penske is 87.

Singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is 83.

Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito is 82.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is 82.

Movie director Mike Leigh is 81.

Actor Brenda Blethyn is 78.

Actor Sandy Duncan is 78.

Actor Peter Strauss is 77.

Rock musician Billy Zoom (X) is 76.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is 73.

Actor John Voldstad is 73.

Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst is 70.

Actor Anthony Head is 70.

Country singer Leland Martin is 67.

Actor James Wilby is 66.

Rock musician Sebastian Steinberg is 65.

Comedian Joel Hodgson is 64.

Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is 61.

Rock musician Ian Brown (Stone Roses) is 61.

Actor French Stewart is 60.

Actor Ron Eldard is 59.

Model Cindy Crawford is 58.

Actor Andrew Shue is 57.

Actor Lili Taylor is 57.

Actor Andrea Savage is 51.

Singer Brian Littrell is 49.

Actor Lauren Ambrose is 46.

Actor Jay Hernandez is 46.

Actor Chelsea Peretti is 46.

Country musician Coy Bowles is 45.

Actor Michael Zegen is 45.

Actor Majandra Delfino is 43.

Actor Jocko Sims is 43.

Singer-musician Chris Thile is 43.

Actor-singer Jessie Mueller is 41.

MLB All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander is 41.

Comedian Trevor Noah is 40.

Actor Jake Richardson is 39.

Actor Daniella Pineda is 37.

Actor Miles Teller is 37.

Singer Rihanna is 36.

Actor Jack Falahee is 35.