April 12

1861

The Civil War began when Fort Sumter was attacked.

1862

James J. Andrews led the raiding party that stole the Confederate locomotive "The General," inspiring the 1926 Buster Keaton movie.

1945

President Franklin Roosevelt died.

1955

The polio vaccine of Dr. Jonas Salk was called "safe, effective, and potent."

1961

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin became the first human in space and also the first human to orbit the earth in a spacecraft.

1981

The first space shuttle, Columbia, took its first test flight.

1983

Harold Washington was elected Chicago’s first African-American mayor.

1999

Arkansas federal judge Susan Webber Wright found President Clinton in contempt of court for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

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