Year
1866

ASPCA is founded

On April 10, 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh, 54.

In 1863, Bergh had been appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II. It was there that he was horrified to witness work horses beaten by their peasant drivers. En route back to America, a June 1865 visit to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in London awakened his determination to secure a charter not only to incorporate the ASPCA but to exercise the power to arrest and prosecute violators of the law.

Back in New York, Bergh pleaded on behalf of “these mute servants of mankind” at a February 8, 1866, meeting at Clinton Hall. He argued that protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. “This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues,” he said. “It is a moral question in all its aspects.” The speech prompted a number of dignitaries to sign his “Declaration of the Rights of Animals.”

Bergh’s impassioned accounts of the horrors inflicted on animals convinced the New York State legislature to pass the charter incorporating the ASPCA on April 10, 1866. Nine days later, the first effective anti-cruelty law in the United States was passed, allowing the ASPCA to investigate complaints of animal cruelty and to make arrests.

Bergh was a hands-on reformer, becoming a familiar sight on the streets and in the courtrooms of New York. He regularly inspected slaughter houses, worked with police to close down dog- and rat-fighting pits and lectured in schools and to adult societies. In 1867, the ASPCA established and operated the nation’s first ambulance for horses.

As the pioneer and innovator of the humane movement, the ASPCA quickly became the model for more than 25 other humane organizations in the United States and Canada. And by the time Bergh died in 1888, 37 of the 38 states in the Union had passed anti-cruelty laws.

Bergh’s dramatic street rescues of mistreated horses and livestock served as a model for those trying to protect abused children. After Mary Ellen McCormack, 9, was found tied to a bed and brutally beaten by her foster parents in 1874, activists founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Bergh served as one of the group’s first vice presidents.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Zapata assassinated in Mexico

Emiliano Zapata, a leader of peasants and indigenous people during the Mexican Revolution, is ambushed and shot to death in Morelos by government forces.Born a peasant in 1879, Zapata was forced into the Mexican army in 1908 following his attempt to recover village lands taken ...read more

Bataan Death March begins

The day after the surrender of the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese, the 75,000 Filipino and American troops captured on the Bataan Peninsula begin a forced march to a prison camp near Cabanatuan. During this infamous trek, known as the “Bataan Death March,” the ...read more

Chaplin receives Oscar

As part of his first visit to the United States in 20 years, British film pioneer Charlie Chaplin accepts an honorary Academy Award for his “incalculable” contribution to the art of filmmaking. Chaplin, once America’s most successful movie star and director, had left the country ...read more

Hertz rental car founder born

On this day in 1879, Sandor Herz—the future John Hertz, the man behind what will one day be the world’s largest car-rental company—is born in present-day Slovakia.Hertz immigrated to America with his family as a child and grew up in Chicago. In 1915, he founded the Yellow Cab ...read more

B-52s begin bombing North Vietnam

Although the U.S. command refuses to confirm publicly the location of targets, U.S. B-52 bombers reportedly begin bombing North Vietnam for the first time since November 1967. The bombers struck in the vicinity of Vinh, 145 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. It was later ...read more

Tiger Woods wins fourth Masters

Tiger Woods wins his fourth Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club after a 15-foot birdie on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff against Chris DiMarco on April 10, 2005. The victory was Woods’ ninth major championship on the PGA tour.Eldrick “Tiger” Woods ...read more

FDR creates Civilian Conservation Corps

On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an innovative federally funded organization that put thousands of Americans to work during the Great Depression on projects with environmental benefits.In 1932, FDR took ...read more

Civilian Conservation Corps created

The Civilian Conservation Corps, a tool for employing young men and improving the government’s vast holdings of western land, is created in Washington, D.C.One of the dozens of New Deal programs created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fight the Great Depression, the ...read more

The Gift of the Magi is published

O. Henry’s second short story collection, The Four Million, is published. The collection includes one of his most beloved stories, The Gift of the Magi, about a poor but devoted couple who each sacrifice their most valuable possession to buy a ...read more

First color 3-D film opens

On this day in 1953, the horror film The House of Wax, starring Vincent Price, opens at New York’s Paramount Theater. Released by Warner Brothers, it was the first movie from a major motion-picture studio to be shot using the three-dimensional, or stereoscopic, film process and ...read more

Atomic submarine sinks in Atlantic

On this day in 1963, the USS Thresher, an atomic submarine, sinks in the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. One hundred and twenty-nine sailors and civilians were lost when the sub unexpectedly plunged to the sea floor 300 miles off the coast of New England.The Thresher ...read more

A torture chamber is uncovered by arson

On this day in 1834, a fire at the LaLaurie mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, leads to the discovery of a torture chamber where slaves are routinely brutalized by Delphine LaLaurie. Rescuers found a 70-year-old black woman trapped in the kitchen during the fire because she was ...read more

U.S. table tennis team visits communist China

The U.S. table tennis team begins a weeklong visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at the invitation of China’s communist government. The well-publicized trip was part of the PRC’s attempt to build closer diplomatic relations with the United States, and was the beginning ...read more

General Lee gives final address to troops

One day after surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General Robert E. Lee addresses his army for the last time.“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to ...read more