1852 Adventurer and performer Calamity Jane is born On this day, the adventurer and performer Calamity Jane is born near Princeton, Missouri. The myths and fabrications concerning the life of Calamity Jane are so numerous it is difficult to discover her true story. Legend has it that at various times Jane worked as a dishwasher at Fort Bridger, a laborer on the Union Pacific, a scout for General Custer, and a teamster. Some claim that Jane’s parents died when she was only eight years old and the event led to her nickname “Calamity,” but serious historians have never found any solid evidence for any of these legends. What reliable records do exist indicate that she was born Martha Jane Canary and spent the first 13 years of her life in rural Missouri. In 1865, she and her family moved west to the booming gold rush town of Virginia City, Montana. There she grew into a tall and powerfully built young woman who liked to wear men’s clothing and spend her time in the company of men. Like many young frontier women, Jane learned to ride and shoot at an early age, and she apparently bridled at the narrow limits placed on women in her era. By the early 1870s, Jane appears to have been out on her own. She was able to find occasional work in Virginia City as a laundress, one of the few occupations that were open to women at the time. In 1875, she joined a scientific expedition into the Black Hills of South Dakota, probably working as a laundress and camp follower rather than the teamster of legend. Still, Jane’s participation in the expedition put her in the Black Hills during the height of the subsequent gold rush to the region from 1876 to 1880. She eventually settled in the rugged boomtown of Deadwood, South Dakota. Given to hard drinking and carousing, she attracted public attention with stunts like riding a bull down the main street of Rapid City. By the 1890s, many Americans were already fascinated with the rapidly fading days of the Wild West, and a wild woman like Jane was extremely interesting. Jane catered to this fascination with boasts of her supposed exploits, claiming to have been a uniformed army scout for General Custer, for example, though there was no evidence this was true. Ultimately, Jane was a performer, providing the public with the appropriately grand and mythic image of the West. By 1896, Jane’s hard living had begun to take a toll, and she was suffering from the debilitating effects of severe alcoholism. Nonetheless, she accepted an offer to appear on the stage in Minneapolis in her self-created persona of Calamity Jane. In 1901, she was even invited to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Wherever she went, Jane brought along copies of her hopelessly inaccurate autobiography, which she sold to credulous fans for a few pennies. One of the most persistent legends has been that Jane was married to the famous gunslinger and lawman Wild Bill Hickok, and that she may have given birth to his child. Yet again, biographers have been unable to establish any connection between Jane and Hickok. There is some evidence Jane may have given birth to a daughter, but if the child existed at all, its paternity was uncertain. Mostly likely, Jane simply fabricated the affair with Hickok, although she eventually may have come to believe that this-and other stories about her life–were actually true. Two years before she died, she seems to have finally have tired of living the self-created persona of Calamity Jane. Found sick and drunk in an African-American bordello in Horr, Montana, she grumbled an uncharacteristic wish that the world would “leave me alone and let me go to hell my own route.” She died at the age of 51 on August 1, 1903, in Terry, South Dakota. 1898 The U.S. destroys Spanish Pacific fleet in Battle of Manila Bay At Manila Bay in the Philippines, the U.S. Asiatic Squadron destroys the Spanish Pacific fleet in the first battle of the Spanish-American War. Nearly 400 Spanish sailors were killed and 10 Spanish warships wrecked or captured at the cost of only six Americans wounded. The Spanish-American War had its origins in the rebellion against Spanish rule that began in Cuba in 1895. The repressive measures that Spain took to suppress the guerrilla war, such as herding Cuba’s rural population into disease-ridden garrison towns, were graphically portrayed in U.S. newspapers and enflamed public opinion. In January 1898, violence in Havana led U.S. authorities to order the battleship USS Maine to the city’s port to protect American citizens. On February 15, a massive explosion of unknown origin sank the Maine in the Havana harbor, killing 260 of the 400 American crewmembers aboard. An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March, without much evidence, that the ship was blown up by a mine but did not directly place the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible, however, and called for a declaration of war. In April, the U.S. Congress prepared for war, adopting joint congressional resolutions demanding a Spanish withdrawal from Cuba and authorizing President William McKinley to use force. On April 23, President McKinley asked for 125,000 volunteers to fight against Spain. The next day, Spain issued a declaration of war. The United States declared war on April 25. U.S. Commodore George Dewey, in command of the seven-warship U.S. Asiatic Squadron anchored north of Hong Kong, was ordered to “capture or destroy” the Spanish Pacific fleet, which was known to be in the coastal waters of the Spanish-controlled Philippines. On April 30, Dewey’s lookouts caught sight of Luzon, the main Philippine island. That night, under cover of darkness and with the lights aboard the U.S. warships extinguished, the squadron slipped by the defensive guns of Corregidor Island and into Manila Bay. After dawn rose, the Americans located the Spanish fleet: 10 out-of-date warships anchored off the Cavite naval station. The U.S. fleet, in comparison, was well armed and well staffed, largely due to the efforts of the energetic assistant secretary of the navy, Theodore Roosevelt, who had also selected Dewey for the command of the Asiatic Squadron. At 5:41 a.m., at a range of 5,400 yards from the enemy, Commodore Dewey turned to the captain of his flagship, the Olympia, and said, “You may fire when ready, Gridley.” Two hours later, the Spanish fleet was decimated, and Dewey ordered a pause in the fighting. He met with his captains and ordered the crews a second breakfast. The four surviving Spanish vessels, trapped in the little harbor at Cavite, refused to surrender, and at 11:15 a.m. fighting resumed. At 12:30 p.m., a signal was sent from the gunboat USS Petrel to Dewey’s flagship: “The enemy has surrendered.” Dewey’s decisive victory cleared the way for the U.S. occupation of Manila in August and the eventual transfer of the Philippines from Spanish to American control. In Cuba, Spanish forces likewise crumbled in the face of superior U.S. forces, and on August 12 an armistice was signed between Spain and the United States. In December, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the brief Spanish-American War. The once-proud Spanish empire was virtually dissolved, and the United States gained its first overseas empire. Puerto Ricoand Guam were ceded to the United States, the Philippines were bought for $20 million, and Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. Philippine insurgents who fought against Spanish rule during the war immediately turned their guns against the new occupiers, and 10 times more U.S. troops died suppressing the Philippines than in defeating Spain. 1963 James Whittaker becomes the first American to top Mt. Everest James Whittaker of Redmond, Washington, becomes the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Located in the central Himalayas on the border of China and Nepal, Everest stands 29,028 feet above sea level. Called Chomolungma, or “Mother Goddess of the Land,” by the Tibetans, the English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, an early 19th-century British surveyor of the Himalayas. In May 1953, climber and explorer Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal made the first successful climb of the peak. Queen Elizabeth II later knighted Hillary for the achievement. Ten years later, American James Whittaker reached Everest’s summit with his Sherpa climbing partner, Nawang Gombu. The first American woman to successfully climb Everest was Stacy Allison in 1988.