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What Happened on May 27?

  • Bubonic plague broke out in San Francisco. (1907) A sailor was diagnosed with the plague, which quickly spread throughout the city. Though several committees formed to stop it, the plague kept spreading until scientists discovered that it was connected to rats, and after a massive rat capturing initiative, the city became plague free.

  • The Centralia, Pennsylvania, mine fire started. (1962) Since the fire was burning underground, residents failed to realize how serious it was for over ten years before fiery sinkholes started opening up in people's yards. The town was mostly deserted over the next decade, and as of 2011 the fire was still burning.

  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia. (1994) Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel laureate, had been sentenced to hard labor for criticizing the Stalinist regime, and was eventually expelled from the USSR in 1974. The USSR dropped all charges against him in 1990, and in 1994 he returned to Russia, where he lived until his death in 2008.

  • The British navy sunk the Bismark. (1941) The Bismark was a powerful German battleship, and Hitler had hoped to break the UK's naval superiority with it. The British navy intercepted the boat and sank it on this day; over 2,000 German soldiers were killed.

  • President Franklin Roosevelt declared a state of unlimited emergency. (1941) Roosevelt defined his plans for America should it become involved in World War II in a radio address on this day. It was part of a long and involved attempt to sway American opinion to be favorable towards entering the war, which paid off when things came to a head after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of that year.

  • St. Petersburg was founded. (1703) The founding of St. Petersburg by Peter the Great put Russia on the map as a major international player. It remained the Russian capital until the Revolution of 1917, when the capital was moved to Moscow, but still remains a major European cultural center.

  • The Golden Gate Bridge opened. (1937) The bridge was completed in just four years, and when it was completed, was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

  • Disney's Three Little Pigs was released. (1933) The film became a classic Disney cartoon, and was also the debut of the song Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, and has since been preserved in the Library of Congress for its cultural significance.

  • Bob Dylan's breakthrough album was released. (1963) The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, with songs like Blowin' in the Wind and Don't Think Twice, It's All Right put Dylan on the charts, and became the soundtrack for the '60s counterculture.

  • The Chrysler building opened. (1930) The building was the tallest in the world when it opened, but it only kept the status for 18 months before the Empire State Building surpassed it in 1931.

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