Sep 17 1859
San Francisco resident Joshua A. Norton proclaims himself Emperor of these United States, a title he retains until his death in 1880. The successor to Emperor Norton I has yet to be anointed.
Sep 17 1908
Thomas E. Selfridge becomes the world's first airplane fatality when the craft he's co-piloting with Orville Wright crashes near Fort Meyer, Virginia. An untested propeller ripped apart the plane's structure, causing it to nosedive from an altitude of 75 feet.
Sep 17 1939
The Soviet Union invades Poland, to fulfill its end of the secret protocols contained in the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. They partition the country along pre-decided lines.
Sep 17 1965
CBS television premieres Hogan's Heroes, the first and perhaps only sitcom based in a German prisoner-of-war camp. The show is proof once and for all that Nazis are hilarious.
Sep 17 1980
Deposed Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza is assassinated in Asuncion, Paraguay when his limousine is stopped by a six-man hit squad, armed with machine guns and a bazooka. As it happens, Somoza's father, Anastasio Sr., was himself assassinated in 1956.