Year
1898

U.S. takes control of Puerto Rico

Only one year after Spain granted Puerto Rico self-rule, American troops raise the U.S. flag over the Caribbean nation, formalizing U.S. authority over the island’s one million inhabitants.

In July 1898, near the end of the Spanish-American War, U.S. forces launched an invasion of Puerto Rico, the 108-mile-long, 40-mile-wide island that was one of Spain’s two principal possessions in the Caribbean. With little resistance and only seven American deaths, U.S. troops were able to secure the island by mid August. After the signing of an armistice with Spain, the island was turned over to the U.S forces on October 18. U.S. General John R. Brooke became military governor. In December, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Spanish-American War and officially approving the cession of Puerto Rico to the United States.

In the first three decades of its rule, the U.S. government made efforts to Americanize its new possession, including granting full U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917 and considering a measure that would make English the island’s official language. However, during the 1930s, a nationalist movement led by the Popular Democratic Party won widespread support across the island, and further U.S. assimilation was successfully opposed. Beginning in 1948, Puerto Ricans could elect their own governor, and in 1952 the U.S. Congress approved a new Puerto Rican constitution that made the island an autonomous U.S. commonwealth, with its citizens retaining American citizenship. The constitution was formally adopted by Puerto Rico on July 25, 1952.

Movements for Puerto Rican statehood, along with lesser movements for Puerto Rican independence, have won supporters on the island, but popular referendums in 1967 and 1993 demonstrated that the majority of Puerto Ricans still supported their special status as a U.S. commonwealth.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Edison dies

Thomas Alva Edison, one of the most prolific inventors in history, dies in West Orange, New Jersey, at the age of 84.Born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847, Edison received little formal schooling, which was customary for most Americans at the time. He developed serious hearing problems at ...read more

Peking’s Summer Palace destroyed

British troops occupying Peking, China, loot and then burn the Yuanmingyuan, the fabulous summer residence built by the Manchu emperors in the 18th century. China’s Qing leadership surrendered to the Franco-British expeditionary force soon after, ending the Second Opium War and ...read more

Ferdinand and Isabella marry

Ferdinand of Aragon marries Isabella of Castile in Valladolid, thus beginning a cooperative reign that would unite all the dominions of Spain and elevate the nation to a dominant world power. Ferdinand and Isabella incorporated a number of independent Spanish dominions into their ...read more

U.S. takes possession of Alaska

On this day in 1867, the U.S. formally takes possession of Alaska after purchasing the territory from Russia for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre. The Alaska purchase comprised 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and was championed by William Henry ...read more

Emperor Bao Dai attempts to dismiss Diem

A communiquÉ from Emperor Bao Dai’s office in Paris announces that he has dismissed Ngo Dinh Diem from the premiership and annulled his powers.In a message to the Vietnamese people Bao Dai prophetically declared, “police methods and personal dictatorship must be brought to an ...read more

Mr. October hits three homers in three swings

On October 18, 1977, in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson hits three home runs in a row off of three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers. Only the great Babe Ruth had ever hit three homers ...read more

Terry McMillan is born

On this day, bestselling novelist Terry McMillan is born in Port Huron, Michigan. McMillan’s contemporary fiction draws on her own experiences as a middle-class black woman.McMillan’s father, an alcoholic, died when McMillan was 16. Her mother, who raised five children on her ...read more

Roseanne debuts

On this day in 1988, Roseanne, a television sitcom about a blue-collar American family starring the comedienne Roseanne Barr, premieres on ABC. The show was considered groundbreaking for its realistic portrayal of a working-class family and the issues they faced. Barr’s portrayal ...read more

Pipeline explosions kills 700 in Nigeria

On this day in 1998, a pipeline explosion in Jesse, Nigeria, kills 700 people. The resulting fire burned for nearly a week.Nigeria is an oil-rich country on the west coast of Africa. The oil fields are controlled by several multi-national corporations in cooperation with the ...read more

General Sickles visits his troops

Union General Daniel Sickles returns to visit his old command, the Third Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He was recovering from the loss of his leg at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in July 1863, and the visit turned sour when the army’s commander, General George ...read more

Mason and Dixon draw a line

On this day in 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon complete their survey of the boundary between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as areas that would eventually become the states of Delaware and West Virginia. The Penn and Calvert families had hired Mason and ...read more