2013: Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is elected pope of the Roman Catholic Church and takes the name of Pope Francis, suceeding Pope Benedict XVI, who had retired on Feb. 28. Bergoglio, a Jesuit from Buenos Aires, is the first pope from South America.
2009: Betsy Blair, an Oscar-nominated actress and teenage bride of Gene Kelly, dies of cancer at the age of 85 in London, England. Blair, whose movie career stalled after her enthusiasm for leftist causes landed her on Hollywood's blacklist, earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1956 for "Marty." She met Kelly in 1941 while she was working as a dancer at a New York City nightclub and they were married when she was 17 years old, divorcing 16 years later in 1957. Some of her other film roles included "The Guilt of Janet Ames," "A Double Life" and "Kind Lady."
2008: Gold prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange hit $1,000 per ounce for the first time, amid recession fears in the United States. They then dropped slightly to end the day at $997.10.
2006: Actress Maureen Stapleton, best known for roles in the movies "Lonelyhearts," "Bye Bye Birdie," "Airport," "Interiors," "Reds," "Johnny Dangerously" and "Cocoon," dies of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 80 in Lenox, Mass. Stapleton, who got her start on Broadway in the 1940s, earned four Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress in her career, winning in 1982 for "Reds."
1999: With the song "Believe" peaking at the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, Cher sets the record for the longest gap between No. 1 songs on the chart. The song was the singer's first to hit No. 1 on the chart since "Dark Lady" on March 23, 1974, representing a stretch of 24 years and 355 days.
1996: At a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, 43-year-old gunman Thomas Hamilton shoots and kills 16 students and one teacher. Hamilton also injured another 15 people before committing suicide. In response to the public debate that arose after the attack, the British government enacted two laws that effectively made private ownership of handguns illegal in the United Kingdom.
1992: The comedy "My Cousin Vinny," starring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio and Fred Gwynne, opens in theaters. Tomei would go on to earn an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film. The film was also Gwynne's final film appearance before his death on July 2, 1993, of pancreatic cancer.
1991: Exxon agrees to pay a record $100 million criminal fine and $900 million for cleanup costs for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The deal would eventually fall apart after a judge refused to approve the plea agreement. A new agreement would later be worked out with Exxon reimbursing state and federal cleanup efforts over the course of a decade from a $900 million fund and paying $100 million in restitution and $150 million in fines. However, $125 million of the fines were forgiven in recognition of Exxon's cooperation in cleaning up the spill and paying certain private claims. In total, Exxon has said it spent about $2.1 billion on the cleanup effort.
1988: John Holmes, one of the most prolific male porn stars of all time, dies from complications caused by AIDS at age 43 in Los Angeles, Calif. Near the end of his life, Holmes became notorious for his drug use and ventures into crime, including an alleged involvement in the deaths of four drug dealers on Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles. Holmes was arrested, tried and acquitted for his involvement in the Wonderland slayings.
1988: The Seikan Tunnel, the longest undersea railway tunnel in the world, opens between Aomori and Hakodate, Japan.
1987: The comedy "Raising Arizona," starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter and John Goodman, and written, directed and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen, opens in theaters. Although not a blockbuster upon its release, the movie would go on to achieve cult status and is considered among some of the best movie comedies ever made.
1985: Actor Emile Hirsch, best known for his roles in movies like "The Girl Next Door," "Into the Wild," "Speed Racer" and "Milk," is born in Topanga, Calif.
1972: Rapper and actor Common, known for such Grammy-winning songs as "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)" and "Southside," is born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. in Chicago, Ill. Common has appeared in movies such as "Smokin' Aces," "Street Kings," "American Gangster," "Wanted" and "Just Wright" (pictured), and stars on the AMC western television series "Hell on Wheels."
1969: Apollo 9 returns safely to Earth after 10 days in low Earth orbit testing the lunar module. Further tests on the Apollo 10 mission would prepare the module for its ultimate goal, landing on the moon.
1964: The rock musical "Viva Las Vegas," starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, premieres in London, England.
1964: Catherine "Kitty" Genovese is stabbed to death near her apartment in the borough of Queens in New York City. The murder received even more attention two weeks later when an investigative piece in the New York Times alleged that 38 of Genovese's neighbors witnessed her murder yet did little to help her, with one unidentified neighbor being quoted as saying "I didn't want to get involved." In reality, investigators found 38 witnesses who had heard or seen parts of the crime, but no one had been aware of the whole thing. Many were unaware that a murder was in progress and several thought that the noises they heard were part of a lovers' quarrel. Despite the inaccuracies in the New York Times report, it helped crystallize public opinion of those living in big cities, and especially New York, as callous or apathetic and prompted research into the so-called "bystander effect."
1957: Cuban student revolutionaries storm the presidential palace in Havana in a failed attempt on the life of President Fulgencio Batista. The students who led the attack were killed in the response by the military and police.
1956: Actress Dana Delany, best known for TV roles in "China Beach," "Desperate Housewives" and "Body of Proof," and for roles in movies such as "Tombstone" and "Exit to Eden," is born in New York City.
1956: Director John Ford's western "The Searchers," starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter and Natalie Wood, premieres in theaters. The movie was a success and is often credited as one of the greatest American westerns of all time as well as one of the greatest films ever made.
1950: Actor William H. Macy, best known for his Academy Award-nominated role as Jerry Lundegaard in "Fargo," is born in Miami, Fla. Macy is also known for film roles in "Boogie Nights," "Pleasantville," "Magnolia," "Jurassic Park III," "The Cooler" and "The Sessions," and for his TV roles in "ER," "Sports Night" and "Shameless."
1943: German forces begin "liquidating" the Jewish ghetto in Kraków, Poland. More than 8,000 Jews deemed able to work were transported to the Plaszow labor camp. Another 2,000 Jews deemed by the Nazi forces as unfit for work were killed in the streets of the ghetto over the course of two days. Any remaining were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp or to the Belzec extermination camp.
1939: Singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka, who has written or co-written more than 500 songs for himself and other artists in a career lasting more than 50 years, is born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Some of Sedaka's best known songs include "Calendar Girl," "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen," "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" and "Next Door to an Angel." He also wrote songs such as "Where the Boys Are" and "Stupid Cupid" for Connie Francis, "It Hurts to Be in Love" for Gene Pitney, "Love Will Keep Us Together" for The Captain & Tennille, and "When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)" and "The Girl I Left Behind Me" for The Monkees.
1938: Defense attorney Clarence Darrow dies from pulmonary heart disease at the age of 80 in Chicago, Ill. Darrow is best known for defending teenage killers Leopold and Loeb in their 1924 trial for murdering 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks and defending John T. Scopes in the Scopes "Monkey" Trial in 1925.
1928: The St. Francis Dam, located about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, bursts around midnight, killing up to 600 people. The dam's collapse is considered to be one of the worst American civil engineering failures of the 20th century and remains the second-greatest loss of life in California's history, after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and fire.
1921: Cartoonist Al Jaffee, best known for his work in the satirical magazine Mad, including his trademark feature, the back page "Mad Fold-in," is born in Savannah, Ga. Only one issue of Mad has been published since 1964 without containing new material by Jaffee.
1918: In the first NHL championship playoffs, the Toronto Hockey Club loses the second game of a two-game series to the Montreal Canadiens 4-3, but win the championship on overall goals. Combined with their 7-3 win on March 11, Toronto outscored Montreal 10-7. Toronto advanced to play for the Stanley Cup, beating the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion Vancouver Millionaires three games to two to win the cup. The Toronto Hockey Club would be renamed the Toronto Arenas the following season and eventually became the team known today as the Toronto Maple Leafs.
1911: L. Ron Hubbard, the pulp fiction author and founder of the Church of Scientology, is born Lafayette Ronald Hubbard in Tilden, Neb. He died of a stroke at age 74 on Jan. 24, 1986.
1906: Susan B. Anthony, the prominent civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to introduce women's suffrage into the United States, dies of heart disease and pneumonia at the age of 86 in Rochester, N.Y.
1901: Former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, who served between 1889 and 1893, dies of complications from influenza at the age of 67 in Indianapolis, Ind. His administration is remembered most for economic legislation and for annual federal spending that reached $1 billion for the first time.
1886: Hall of Fame third baseman John Franklin "Home Run" Baker, who helped the Philadelphia Athletics win the 1910, 1911 and 1913 World Series, is born in Trappe, Md. Baker played seven years for the Athletics before finishing his major-league career with six seasons playing for the New York Yankees. He is considered by many as the best third baseman of baseball's pre-war era.
1881: Emperor Alexander II of Russia is killed near his palace in Saint Petersburg when a bomb is thrown at him.
1868: The U.S. Senate begins the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. In the first impeachment in history of a sitting United States president, the U.S. House of Representatives had impeached Johnson on Feb. 24, primarily charging him with violation of the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from office and replacing him with Maj. Gen. Lorenzo Thomas. The trial concluded in May 1868 with Johnson's acquittal, the votes for conviction being one vote less than the required two-thirds tally.
1862: During the Civil War, the U.S. federal government forbids all Union Army officers from returning fugitive slaves to their owners, thus effectively annulling the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and setting the stage for the Emancipation Proclamation, which proclaimed all those enslaved in Confederate territory to be forever free.
1852: In a political cartoon in an issue of the New York Lantern, Frank Henry Bellew becomes the first artist to portray "Uncle Sam" in human form.
1842: Maj. Gen. Henry Shrapnel, a British Army officer and inventor, most famously, of the "shrapnel shell," dies at the age of 80 in Southampton, England. His original shrapnel shell, which he refined during his life of service in the military, was a spherical case designed to explode in midair, spreading its contents of small lead musket balls over a wide area. Today, long after high explosive rounds have replaced shrapnel shells, his name is still used to describe fragments from artillery shells and fragmentation in general.
1798: Abigail Fillmore, the first lady of the United States from 1850 to 1853 as the wife of President Millard Fillmore, is born Abigail Powers in Stillwater, N.Y.
1781: English astronomer William Herschel detects Uranus in the night sky, but mistakenly thinks it is a comet. It was the first planet to be discovered with the aid of a telescope.
1639: New College in Cambridge, Mass., is renamed Harvard College for clergyman John Harvard, who had bequeathed to the school his entire library and half of his monetary estate.