Year
1933

FDR escapes assassination in Miami

On this day in 1933, a deranged, unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara shouts Too many people are starving! and fires a gun at America’s president-elect, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt had just delivered a speech in Miami’s Bayfront Park from the back seat of his open touring car when Zangara opened fire with six rounds. Five people were hit. The president escaped injury but the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who was also in attendance, received a mortal stomach wound in the attack.

Several men tackled the assailant and might have beaten him to death if Roosevelt had not intervened, telling the crowd to leave justice to the authorities. Zangara later claimed I don’t hate Mr. Roosevelt personallyI hate all officials and anyone who is rich. He also told the FBI that chronic stomach pain led to his action: Since my stomach hurt I want to make even with the capitalists by kill the president. My stomach hurt long time [sic].

Zangara’s extreme action reflected the anger and frustration felt among many working Americans during the Great Depression. At the time of the shooting, Roosevelt was still only the president-elect and had yet to be sworn in. His policies remained untested, but reports of Roosevelt’s composure during the assassination attempt filled the following day’s newspapers and did much to enforce Roosevelt’s public image as a strong leader.

Unsubstantiated reports later claimed that Zangara’s real target had been Cermak and hinted at Zangara’s connection to organized crime in Chicago. Zangara was initially tried for attempted murder and sentenced to 80 years in prison, but when Mayor Cermak later died of his wounds, Zangara was retried and sentenced to death. Zangara died on the electric chair on March 20, 1933.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

U.S. figure skating team killed in plane crash

On this day in 1961, the entire 18-member U.S. figure skating team is killed in a plane crash in Berg-Kampenhout, Belgium. The team was on its way to the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Among those killed in the crash was 16-year-old Laurence ...read more

Canada adopts maple leaf flag

In accordance with a formal proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II of England, a new Canadian national flag is raised above Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Beginning in 1610, Lower Canada, a new British colony, flew Great Britain’s Union Jack, or Royal Union Flag. ...read more

DeGaulle offers to help end Vietnam War

In response to a letter from Ho Chi Minh asking that French President Charles De Gaulle use his influence to “prevent perfidious new maneuvers” by the United States in Southeast Asia, De Gaulle states that France is willing to do all that it could to end the war. As outlined by ...read more

Chicago Eight defense attorneys sentenced

As the jury continues to deliberate in the trial of the Chicago Eight, defense attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass and three of the defendants are sentenced to prison for contempt of court. The trial for eight antiwar activists charged with the responsibility for the ...read more

Dale Earnhardt wins first Daytona 500

After two decades of trying, stock-car racing great Dale Earnhardt finally wins his first Daytona 500, NASCAR’s premier event, on this day in 1998. Earnhardt was born April 29, 1951, in Kannapolis, North Carolina. His father was a race car driver and Dale dropped out of high ...read more

First Teddy bear goes on sale

On this day in 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before ...read more

Oil tanker runs aground near Wales

On this day in 1996, a supertanker, the Sea Empress, runs aground near Wales, spilling 70,000 tons of crude oil. The oil spill did not take any human lives, but severely damaged several bird sanctuaries. The Pembrokeshire coast of South Wales is an area teeming with wildlife, ...read more

The death penalty–then and now

Giuseppe Zangara shoots Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, in Miami, Florida. Zangara’s shots missed President-elect Franklin Roosevelt, who was with Cermak at the time. Cermak was seriously wounded and died on March 6. Immediately after Mayor Cermak died from the gunshot ...read more

USSR and PRC sign mutual defense treaty

The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, the two largest communist nations in the world, announce the signing of a mutual defense and assistance treaty. The negotiations for the treaty were conducted in Moscow between PRC leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou En-lai, and ...read more

Alexander Stewart Webb born

On this day in 1835, Union General Alexander Stewart Webb is born in New York City. Webb’s grandfather had fought at Bunker Hill during the American Revolution, and his father, James Watson Webb, was a prominent newspaper editor and diplomat who served as minister to Brazil ...read more