In 1784, John Wesley, the co-founder of Methodism, chartered the first Methodist Church in the United States in Leesburg, Virginia.
In 1844, a 12-inch gun aboard the USS Princeton exploded as the ship was sailing on the Potomac River, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Navy Secretary Thomas W. Gilmer and several others.
In 1849, the California gold rush began in earnest as regular steamship service started bringing gold-seekers to San Francisco.
In 1953, scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had discovered the double-helix structure of DNA.
In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai issued the Shanghai Communique, which called for normalizing relations between their countries, at the conclusion of Nixon’s historic visit to China.
In 1975, 42 people were killed in London’s Underground when a train smashed into the end of a tunnel.
In 1983, the long-running TV series “M-A-S-H” ended after 11 seasons on CBS with a special 2½-hour finale that was watched by an estimated 121.6 million people.
In 1988, the 15th Olympic Winter Games held its closing ceremony in Calgary, Alberta.
In 1993, a gun battle erupted at a religious compound near Waco, Texas, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried to arrest Branch Davidian leader David Koresh on weapons charges; four agents and six Davidians were killed as a 51-day standoff began.
In 1996, Britain’s Princess Diana agreed to divorce Prince Charles. (Their 15-year marriage officially ended in August 1996; Diana died in a car crash in Paris a year after that.)
In 2005, in Santa Maria, California, the prosecution and defense gave opening statements in the sexual molestation trial of Michael Jackson, who was later acquitted.
In 2018, Walmart announced that it would no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21 and would remove items resembling assault-style rifles from its website. Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would stop selling assault-style rifles and ban the sale of all guns to anyone under 21.
Ten years ago: The United States and European allies intensified efforts to isolate Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, redoubling demands for him to step down, questioning his mental state and warning that those who stayed loyal to him risked losing their wealth and facing prosecution for human rights abuses. Actor Jane Russell died in Santa Maria, California, at age 89.
Five years ago: One of Pope Francis’ top advisers, Australian Cardinal George Pell, testifying before an investigative commission in Sydney via videolink from Rome, acknowledged the Catholic Church had made “enormous mistakes” in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests over centuries. “Spotlight” won the Academy Award for best picture of 2015; Brie Larson was recognized as best actress for “Room” while Leonardo DiCaprio was named best actor for “The Revenant.” Oscar-winning actor George Kennedy, 91, died in Middleton, Idaho.
One year ago: The number of countries touched by the coronavirus climbed to nearly 60; Nigerian authorities reported the first case in sub-Saharan Africa, and Mexico said it had two confirmed cases. The State Department told Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Italy, which had seen nearly 900 virus cases. At a rally in South Carolina, President Donald Trump asserted that Democratic complaints about his handling of the virus threat were “their new hoax.” Trump again picked Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas to be the nation’s top intelligence official; he’d abandoned an earlier attempt to place Ratcliffe in the post. (Ratcliffe would be confirmed in May by a sharply divided Senate.) The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the week 12.4% lower in the market’s worst weekly performance since the 2008 financial crisis. Joe Coulombe, the founder of the Trader Joe’s food markets, died at 89; he’d opened his first Trader Joe’s in Pasadena, California, in 1967.
Today’s Birthdays: Architect Frank Gehry is 92. Actor Gavin MacLeod is 90. Singer Sam the Sham is 84. Actor-director-dancer Tommy Tune is 82. Hall of Fame auto racer Mario Andretti is 81. Actor Frank Bonner is 79. Actor Kelly Bishop is 77. Actor Stephanie Beacham is 74. Writer-director Mike Figgis is 73. Actor Mercedes Ruehl is 73. Actor Bernadette Peters is 73. Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu is 73. Actor Ilene Graff is 72. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is 68. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is 66. Basketball Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley is 66. Actor John Turturro is 64. Rock singer Cindy Wilson is 64. Actor Rae Dawn Chong is 60. Actor Maxine Bahns is 52. Actor Robert Sean Leonard is 52. Rock singer Pat Monahan is 52. Author Daniel Handler (aka “Lemony Snicket”) is 51. Actor Tasha Smith is 50. Actor Rory Cochrane is 49. Actor Ali Larter is 45. Country singer Jason Aldean is 44. Actor Geoffrey Arend is 43. Actor Melanie Chandra (TV: “Code Black”) is 37. Actor Michelle Horn is 34. MLB relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman is 33. Actor True O’Brien is 27. Actor Madisen Beaty is 26. Actor Quinn Shephard is 26. Actor Bobb’e J. Thompson is 25.