Year
1769

First Catholic mission in California dedicated

Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, founds the first Catholic mission in California on the site of present-day San Diego. After Serra blessed his new outpost of Christianity in a high mass, the royal standard of Spain was unfurled over the mission, which he named San Diego de Alcala.

Serra came to Spanish America in 1750 and served in the Sierra Gorda missions and then in south-central Mexico. A successful missionary, he was appointed a member of the second Spanish land expedition to Alta California in 1769. When the party reached San Diego, Serra remained with a few followers to found California’s first mission. The rest of the expedition continued on in search of Monterrey harbor, which had been previously used by Spanish sailors. Although the explorers failed in their aim, Serra succeeded in finding Monterrey in 1770, and there he founded his second mission–San Carlos Barromeo.

Appointed president of the Alta California presidios, Serra eventually founded a total of nine missions, stretching from San Diego to present-day San Francisco. The Franciscan fathers built large communities around their missions, teaching Christianized Native Americans to farm and tend cattle, and directing their work. These agricultural communities enjoyed a considerable autonomy from first the Spanish colonial authorities and then the Mexican government, but with the coming of the Americans in the mid-19th century most were abandoned.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Amazon opens for business

On this day in 1995, Amazon officially opens for business as an online bookseller. Within a month, the fledgling retailer had shipped books to all 50 U.S. states and to 45 countries. Founder Jeff Bezos’s motto was “get big fast,” and Seattle-based Amazon eventually morphed into ...read more

JFK Jr. killed in plane crash

On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and her sister, Lauren Bessette, die when the single-engine plane that Kennedy was piloting crashes into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., was born on ...read more

Apollo 11 departs Earth

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, Apollo 11, the first U.S. lunar landing mission, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a historic journey to the surface of the moon. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., ...read more

Atom bomb successfully tested

On this day in 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project comes to an explosive end as the first atom bomb is successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Plans for the creation of a uranium bomb by the Allies were established as early as 1939, when Italian emigre physicist ...read more

McNamara visits South Vietnam

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara conducts a fact-finding mission in South Vietnam, and Henry Cabot Lodge arrives in Saigon to resume his post as ambassador. Lodge had previously held the ambassadorship, but resigned in 1964 to seek the Republican presidential nomination, ...read more

Durocher leaves Dodgers to manage Giants

OnJuly 16,1948, Brooklyn Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher announces that he will be joining the New York Giants, the Dodgers’ archrival. The move was the swiftest and most stunning managerial change in baseball history. Leo “The Lip” Durocher was a brilliant shortstop and mediocre ...read more

Earthquake wreaks havoc in the Philippines

More than 1,000 people are killed when a 7.7-magnitude earthquake strikes Luzon Island in the Philippines on this day in 1990. The massive tremor wreaked havoc across a sizeable portion of Luzon, the country’s largest island, with Baguio City suffering the most devastating ...read more

Draft riots continue to rock New York City

The draft riots enter their fourth day in New York City in response to the Enrollment Act, which was enacted on March 3, 1863. Although avoiding military service became much more difficult, wealthier citizens could still pay a commutation fee of $300 to stay at home. Irritation ...read more