What Happened on July 8 in History?

by oaeen
Commodore Perry's Expedition to Japan

July 8 is a date that has seen numerous significant events across various domains, from political upheavals and groundbreaking discoveries to cultural milestones and notable births. This article delves into the historical events that occurred on July 8, providing an in-depth look at their context, impact, and lasting legacy.

1497: Vasco da Gama Sets Sail for India

On July 8, 1497, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama set sail from Lisbon on a mission to reach India by sea, marking the beginning of one of the most significant voyages in maritime history. Commanding four ships, da Gama’s expedition aimed to find a direct trade route to Asia, circumventing the overland routes controlled by Middle Eastern and North African traders. This journey eventually led to the establishment of a sea route to India, which played a crucial role in the Age of Discovery and significantly impacted global trade and European colonization.

1777: Vermont Abolishes Slavery

On July 8, 1777, Vermont became the first territory in the United States to abolish slavery. The decision was made as part of the state’s constitution, which declared that all men were born equally free and independent. This progressive step was significant in the broader context of American history, highlighting the growing abolitionist sentiment that would eventually lead to the Civil War and the nationwide abolition of slavery with the 13th Amendment in 1865.

1822: The Death of Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the most renowned English Romantic poets, died on July 8, 1822, at the age of 29. Shelley was known for his radical ideas, both political and social, as well as his lyrical and imaginative poetry. His works, such as “Ozymandias” and “Prometheus Unbound,” have had a profound influence on English literature and continue to be studied and celebrated for their beauty and depth.

1839: The Birth of  John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller, born on July 8, 1839, was an American industrialist and philanthropist who played a pivotal role in the development of the American oil industry. As the founder of the Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller became one of the wealthiest individuals in history. His business practices and strategies, which often involved aggressive monopolistic tactics, led to significant changes in U.S. antitrust laws. In addition to his business achievements, Rockefeller was known for his extensive philanthropic efforts, including the establishment of the University of Chicago and the Rockefeller Foundation.

1853: Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan

On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy arrived in Edo Bay (now Tokyo Bay) with a squadron of four ships, initiating a significant turning point in Japanese history. Perry’s mission was to establish trade relations between the United States and Japan, a country that had been isolated from most foreign contact for over two centuries under the Tokugawa shogunate’s sakoku policy. Perry’s arrival and subsequent negotiations led to the signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854, opening Japan to the West and setting the stage for the country’s rapid modernization and transformation during the Meiji era.

1889: The Wall Street Journal First Published

On July 8, 1889, the first issue of The Wall Street Journal was published by Dow Jones & Company. Founded by Charles Dow, Edward Jones, and Charles Bergstresser, the newspaper was initially intended to provide business and financial news and insights. Over the years, The Wall Street Journal has grown into one of the most respected and influential financial publications in the world, renowned for its comprehensive coverage of economic trends, corporate news, and financial markets.

1947: The Roswell UFO Incident

The Roswell UFO incident, one of the most famous and controversial events in UFO lore, reportedly occurred around July 8, 1947. On this day, the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release stating that they had recovered a “flying disc” from a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. This announcement sparked widespread interest and speculation about extraterrestrial life. However, the military quickly retracted the statement, claiming that the recovered object was a weather balloon. Despite this, the Roswell incident has remained a focal point for UFO enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists, contributing to ongoing debates about government secrecy and the possibility of alien visitations.

1951: The Birth of Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston, born on July 8, 1951, is an acclaimed American actress and director. She is part of the illustrious Huston family, known for their contributions to the film industry. Huston’s acting career has been marked by numerous memorable performances in films such as “Prizzi’s Honor,” for which she won an Academy Award, and “The Addams Family.” Her talent and versatility have earned her critical acclaim and a lasting legacy in Hollywood.

1969: The Withdrawal of American Forces from Vietnam

On July 8, 1969, President Richard Nixon announced the first significant withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, marking a crucial moment in the Vietnam War. This decision was part of Nixon’s policy of “Vietnamization,” which aimed to reduce American involvement in the conflict and transfer combat responsibilities to the South Vietnamese forces. The gradual withdrawal of American troops continued over the following years, leading to the eventual end of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam in 1973 and the fall of Saigon in 1975.

1981: Sandra Day O’Connor Nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court

On July 8, 1981, President Ronald Reagan announced the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court, making her the first woman to be nominated to the highest court in the United States. O’Connor’s nomination and subsequent confirmation were landmark moments in American legal history, breaking gender barriers and setting a precedent for future female justices. Her tenure on the court, which lasted until her retirement in 2006, was marked by a pragmatic and moderate judicial approach, influencing many significant rulings.

1982: The Birth of Sophia Bush

Sophia Bush, born on July 8, 1982, is an American actress, activist, and director known for her role as Brooke Davis on the television series “One Tree Hill.” In addition to her acting career, Bush is an outspoken advocate for various social and political causes, including environmental sustainability, women’s rights, and gun control. Her activism and public engagement have made her a prominent figure beyond the entertainment industry.

1994: North Korean Leader Kim Il-sung Dies

On July 8, 1994, Kim Il-sung, the founding leader of North Korea, died of a heart attack at the age of 82. Kim Il-sung had ruled North Korea since its establishment in 1948, creating a highly centralized and autocratic regime characterized by a personality cult and strict control over all aspects of life. His death marked a significant moment in North Korean history, as it led to the succession of his son, Kim Jong-il, who continued his father’s policies and maintained the country’s isolation from the international community.

1994: The Death of Kim Il-sung

Kim Il-sung, the founding leader of North Korea, died on July 8, 1994. He had ruled North Korea since its establishment in 1948, creating a highly centralized and autocratic regime characterized by a personality cult and strict control over all aspects of life. Kim Il-sung’s death marked a significant moment in North Korean history, as it led to the succession of his son, Kim Jong-il, who continued his father’s policies and maintained the country’s isolation from the international community.

2010: The Release of “Despicable Me”

On July 8, 2010, the animated film “Despicable Me” was released in theaters. Produced by Illumination Entertainment and featuring the voice of Steve Carell as the main character Gru, the film became a massive commercial success and a beloved family favorite. “Despicable Me” introduced audiences to the Minions, small yellow creatures who became cultural icons in their own right. The film’s success led to a franchise that includes sequels, spin-offs, and various merchandise, solidifying its place in modern pop culture.

2011: Final Space Shuttle Mission Launched

On July 8, 2011, NASA launched its final space shuttle mission, STS-135, marking the end of the Space Shuttle program. The mission, carried out by the shuttle Atlantis, was intended to deliver supplies and equipment to the International Space Station (ISS). The conclusion of the Space Shuttle program represented a significant shift in American space exploration strategy, as NASA began to focus more on deep space missions and partnerships with private aerospace companies. The legacy of the Space Shuttle program includes numerous scientific discoveries, technological advancements, and a better understanding of human capabilities in space.

2012: The Death of Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine, an Academy Award-winning American actor, died on July 8, 2012, at the age of 95. Borgnine had a prolific acting career spanning over six decades, with memorable roles in films such as “Marty,” for which he won an Oscar, and “The Wild Bunch.” He was also known for his television work, including the role of Quinton McHale in the popular series “McHale’s Navy.” Borgnine’s enduring talent and versatility left a lasting impact on the entertainment industry.


July 8 has witnessed a diverse array of historical events, each contributing to the rich tapestry of human history. From significant political and military developments to groundbreaking scientific achievements and cultural milestones, this date offers a glimpse into the past and the forces that have shaped our world. Reflecting on these events provides valuable insights into the complexities of history and the individuals who have left lasting legacies. As we look back on July 8, we can appreciate the progress made and the lessons learned from these moments in time.

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