Today is Tuesday, Feb. 21, the 52nd day of 2012. There are 314 days left in the year.
On Feb. 21, 1912, a new phrase entered the American political lexicon as former President Theodore Roosevelt, traveling by train to the Ohio Constitutional Convention, told a reporter in Cleveland, “My hat is in the ring,” signaling his intent to challenge President William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination. (After losing the nomination to Taft, Roosevelt then ran as the nominee of the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party; the resulting split among Republicans is believed to have led to Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s victory in November.)
On this date:
In 1862, Nathaniel Gordon, captured at sea with nearly 900 Africans aboard his ship, the Erie, became the first and only American slave-trader to be executed under the U.S. Piracy Law of 1820 as he was hanged in New York.
In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated.
In 1911, composer Gustav Mahler, despite a fever, conducted the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in what turned out to be his final concert (he died the following May).
In 1912, the Great Fifth Ward Fire broke out in Houston, Texas; although property losses topped $3 million, no one was killed in the blaze.
In 1916, the World War I Battle of Verdun began in France as German forces attacked; the French were able to prevail after 10 months of fighting.
In 1925, The New Yorker magazine made its debut.
In 1945, during the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea was sunk by kamikazes with the loss of 318 men.
In 1965, black Muslim leader and civil rights activist Malcolm X, 39, was shot to death inside the Audubon Ballroom in New York by assassins identified as members of the Nation of Islam.
In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon began his historic visit to China as he and his wife, Pat, arrived in Beijing.
In 1973, Israeli fighter planes shot down Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 over the Sinai Desert, killing all but five of the 113 people on board.
In 1986, Larry Wu-tai Chin, the first American found guilty of spying for China, killed himself in his Virginia jail cell.
In 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi of the United States won the gold medal in ladies’ figure skating at the Albertville Olympics; Midori Ito of Japan won the silver, Nancy Kerrigan of the U.S. the bronze.
Ten years ago: The State Department declared that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was dead, a month after he’d been abducted by Islamic extremists in Pakistan. President George W. Bush failed to persuade China to halt sales of missile technology as he neared the end of his six-day Asia tour. In Salt Lake City, U.S. figure skater Sarah Hughes jumped from fourth to first to win the gold after a near-flawless performance, leaving teammate Michelle Kwan to settle for a bronze (Irina Slutskaya of Russia won the silver).
Five years ago: British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his country would withdraw around 1,600 troops from Iraq in the coming months; Denmark, meanwhile, said it would withdraw its 460 troops.
One year ago: Deep cracks opened in Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, with Libyan government officials at home and abroad resigning, air force pilots defecting and a major government building ablaze after clashes in the capital of Tripoli. Yemen’s embattled leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected demands that he step down, calling demonstrations against his regime unacceptable acts of provocation and offering to begin a dialogue with protesters.